Categories
comic books Culture Politics

Captain America for President

Illustration by Peter Pham for the Daily Titan

Published in Tuesday’s Daily Titan.

It’s October and the presidential election is in full swing.

We watch as President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney debate, cheering our respective candidate while blotting out the other. And soon, perhaps during last night’s presidential debate, undecided voters must make their final decision with the election only 16 days away.

Not me. I’ve already made my choice. I was undecided until early October, but while watching the first presidential debate, it came to me in a spark of inspiration.

I’m voting for Captain America. Yes, the Marvel Comics superhero who wields an American flag shield.

Don’t get me wrong: I think both candidates are OK. I’ll even concede that Obama has a trustworthy face. I just have a complete lack of faith in the political system, that’s all.

Both candidates are, simply put, good alternative choices. They are more of the same bland crop of American politicians who are unwilling to think outside the box and are eager to spend America’s money. The debates have shown that Obama and Romney lack backbone, sticking in the shallow end with a “war of words.”

That’s boring.

If Captain America has a problem with you, he will tell you outright why you are lying. Some shield throwing and punching may be involved.

For example, in the mid-2000s Civil War storyline, the American government forces all superheroes to register to the government with the “Superhero Registration Act.” Seeing this as a tremendous overstepping of government authority, Captain America vehemently rejects this unjust law.

Since he is breaking a federal law, a group of U.S. special forces agents surround him with guns drawn. His response?

“Weapons down or I will not be responsible for what comes next,” he says.

Romney couldn’t even summon that amount of backbone in his dreams.

Captain America stays away from politics, but he knows when his country has its priorities in reverse. In s #128 (1970), he comes across a Vietnam-era university protest with students rioting against police officers and an “aloof” college dean.

“Here’s where I oughtta step in and make like a swingin’ hero! But how do I know whose side to take? What the heck—the cops don’t need any help—but these kids do!!” he says.

In 1974, months after the conclusion of Watergate, Captain America discovers that a high-ranking government official (assumed to be President Richard Nixon) is working for an evil terrorist group.

He promptly rejects the U.S. and calls himself the Nomad.

Captain America’s fans have always been attracted to his courage. Beyond his suit he is, after all, Steve Rogers, a scrawny young man who was not able to get drafted into the army during World War II. But his determination makes him the perfect candidate for the “Super-Serum.” He’s the target of bullies, the underdog, and he brings this into his role as Captain America, where he now has the strength to fight for the underdogs.

His selflessness and defensive nature are perfect presidential qualities. “Captain America is not here to lead this country. I’m here to serve it. If I’m a captain, then I’m a soldier,” he says in a 2003 issue, adding:

“I am not a ‘superhero’… I am a man of the people. Together, you and I will identify and confront America’s problems. Together, we will figure out what we are and what we can be. Together, we will define the American Dream and make it an American reality,” he said.

He’s an idealist who is not bogged down by a political party. He doesn’t campaign in swing states, he goes out and fights evil.

But these issues are all chump change compared to the real reason why Captain America deserves the leader of the free world honors.

On the cover of his first-ever comic book appearance, in March 1941, only months before  the attack on Pearl Harbor, Captain America is shown doing something extraordinary. He is decking Adolf Hitler in the jaw.

That’s bad-ass.

Categories
Books comic books

Reading Batman

Gotta’ love Batman! Here is his first appearance, from Detective Comics #27, from May 1939. It is a simple, cool story and it is only six pages. It introduces Commissioner James Gordon and ends showing that Bruce Wayne is Batman (technically “the Bat-Man”).

I’ve read three Batman graphic novels recently: Batman: Year One (okay); Batman: Hush (excellent); and Batman: Venom (meh). I think I’ll read some with Bane and the Joker soon. Anyone know another good Batman story?

P.S. A good novel about the Golden Age of Comic Books (late 1930s to late 1940s) is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. It is a fictional story of two boys who get caught up in the comic book wave before World War II and create their own superhero, modeled after Superman.

Cover for Batman’s first issue

Categories
comic books Movies

Superhero: Batman, or Bruce Wayne? (Dark Knight Rises thoughts)

WARNING: SPOILERS

Superman. Batman. Captain America. From their beginnings in the late 1930s, superheroes have always been larger-than-life heroes. They are willing to make sacrifices to save us from harm in ways ordinary humans cannot.

Kids idolize superheroes. In one of the best parts in The Dark Knight Rises, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young police officer, tries to help out Gotham’s children. One kid sketches Batman’s symbol with chalk, hoping Batman will return.

On the surface, we like Batman because of his mansion, or his Batmobile, or his other cool gadgets. Or Superman because he can fly. But there is an essential component to a superhero: The willingness to protect ordinary citizens from harm.

Batman’s entire ideal rests upon his being an anonymous protector who inspires goodness to the city. After Harvey Dent’s death in The Dark Knight, Batman knew he must take the blame for Dent’s sins. “Because I’m not a hero, not like Dent. I killed those people. That’s what I can be,” he tells Commissioner Jim Gordon.

He was able to surrender everything to heal the city. “I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be,” he says.

But as the The Dark Knight Rises begins, it becomes apparent that Batman taking the blame for killing Harvey Dent, and Gordon lying to the entire city for eight years, is not what Gotham needs.

In a way, Rises parallels Batman Begins. Batman gets in shape, gets a shiny new toy, and is chased by the police his first night in town.

Then he fights Bane, and loses. Bane ships him off to an underground Middle Eastern (?) prison, where escaping means rising from the depths by climbing up a well.

Bruce Wayne climbing up the well- from the teaser

Batman rising from the prison is my favorite scene in the entire trilogy. He twice attempts the climb up the pit, only to fall. It captures the heart of Batman Begins with Bruce father telling him, “We fall so that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”  He then realizes that to make the climb, he must do it with the fear of death, just as a child -rumored to be the only person to escape from the prison- did. He abandons the safety rope and climbs.

As an eight-year-old, Bruce fell down his family’s well and became scared of the bats inside. Now, he must rise from this pit. This prison is (presumably) thousands of miles from Gotham, but it just appears that way: He is a boy, he is in his family’s well, and he is conquering his fear.

Bruce Wayne has been the Dark Knight for about nine years. But it is not enough to just be the Dark Knight. Batman needs to rise to become -as Raus al Ghul said- more than a hero: A legend. And Bruce Wayne needs to rise to conquer his fear.

He has been taught how to fight, he has been given gadgets and armor, but none of that is enough for one man to stop Gotham’s chaos. He tried in The Dark Knight to single-handedly destroy the mob (okay, double-handedly because he teamed with Gordon). And he realized that doing so creates desperation and more enemies (Harvey Dent and the Joker).

Now, with Gotham under Bane’s control, Batman needs to stop the bomb from destroying millions of people. Twists happen, and Batman realizes the only way to save Gotham is to bring the bomb far enough into the ocean.

THE ENDING:

I admit that I was torn over the ending. Should Batman have died?

Here’s what I thought at first:

  • Batman should have sacrificed himself and flown away with the bomb, a la “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” This was a crucial mantra for The Dark Knight. It would also cement Batman as a true hero.

But the more I thought about it, the more the ending where he survives does make sense. Not because Batman’s clever and figured out how to fix the autopilot. While I realize he’s smart, any non-super hero mechanic could do that.

What makes the ending satisfying is that Batman survived and could have come back to Gotham to applause, could help the city get back in order, could even become mayor with the recent vacancy! But he doesn’t, he tells no one that he survived. He gave up his mansion for children in need. He realized Gotham no longer needed Batman, and actually started living his life, something he has not done since his parents were murdered.

My theory is that Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle created clean identities and left Gotham. Bruce’s sad memories revolved around losing Rachel and his parents. As Alfred told him at the beginning of Rises, Alfred’s dream was for Bruce to move away from Gotham and start a family.

Not only did the Dark Knight rise, but Bruce Wayne rose as well. While there are questions surrounding whether Batman is a superhero, one thing is certain: Bruce Wayne becomes the hero Batman could never be.

FIRST THOUGHTS: (SPOILERS)

  1. Alfred looking across the cafe in Florence at the ending and seeing Bruce and Selina is reminiscent of the ending of Inception.
  2. I predicted that Blake would become Batman’s successor! Blake can be a force for good (like  Harvey Dent). He won’t go around getting the mob or villains like Batman, he will protect the city’s children. It is no coincidence that the homeless shelter moved to Wayne Manner.
  3. I was thinking this movie would be more like The Dark Knight, but it was actually more similar to Batman Begins– which is good.
  4. Bane’s voice is off in the first scene on the plane- it’s too loud. Also, sometimes when he’s talking, if you look at his vocal chords they’re not moving or they start and end moving a couple seconds late. I’ll need to watch it again to confirm though.
  5. Bane vs. Batman in the sewer was epic!
  6. Once Bane took control of the city, why didn’t he just kill all the trapped police officers? It would be easy to flush ’em out with explosives and all those Batmobiles have the firepower.
  7. I think Christopher Nolan should have addressed the Joker. I saw that he wanted the Joker to be completely off-limits, but still. Here is what I’d do: One of the criminals that Judge Crane is trying could say, “How come you’re in charge?” and Crane says,”Well a clown wanted the job but I deemed him ‘criminally insane’ and had to dispose of him.”
  8. Other than Batman, Blake is definitely my favorite character in the trilogy.
  9. Commissioner Gordon’s story arc in the film is extremely weak. Yeah he kills two of Bane’s henchmen in the hospital. But that is the only cool thing he did. He was much better in the other two.
  10. “No offense but does your belt have something a bit more powerful?” or something similar to that… Great quote!
  11. A great thing the film did was address the “(Insert city here) as a vacuum” present in many stories. In the present day, it is hard for a city to be on its own that old comic books sometimes assume. In Rises, the outside world cannot interfere with Gotham or else Bane will detonate the bomb. Great plot device.
  12. Did anyone else think of Tony Stark flying with the nuclear bomb to take it to the portal in the Avengers when Batman is flying away with the bomb? They’re strikingly similar. It shows the difference in the two movies, though, because Tony Stark brings the missile to the portal to destroy his enemies, whereas Batman flies away with the bomb to save people. I adopted that idea from some blog post (forget which) but I thought it myself during the movie.
  13. Ratings for the trilogy-Batman Begins: 9.1; The Dark Knight: 9.5; The Dark Knight Rises: 9.5 but I’ll need to watch it again to see. (Compared to The Avengers: 9.2; The Amazing Spider-Man: 8.0; The Hunger Games: 8.8)
  14. Batman should have used more belt gadgets. Also, his EMP gun is awesome.
  15. Is it really that easy to weaponize a nuclear reactor into a nuclear bomb? I doubt it, even with the explanation that it would take 5 months. And shouldn’t that reactor have had more fail-safe components? For example, when you take it off its frame, that it automatically splits into two pieces so that it doesn’t become unstable?
  16. Gordon quotes Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities giving Bruce’s eulogy: ““It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” A major theme from the book is “recalled to life,” present in Batman as “rising.”
  17. Gotham Police Department, you rock! You defied all rational thought and sent in 3,000 police officers into the city’s mysterious, enclosed, dangerous, unknown, dark, enemy-occupied sewer system.
  18. “So that’s what that feels like.”

(Pictures by Warner Bros.)

Categories
Books comic books Culture

Confession: Why I Love to Read

It’s official: I have an addiction to reading.

But hey, nothin’ wrong with that, right Doc? I’ve already read more than 20 books this summer, and I’m aiming for another 10 to 15 more before I go back to college.

So, why do I read?

Well, there’s the obvious answers:

  1. To get lost in a different world (Very true, as I have a fairly active imagination and, if anything, a long attention span and need to occupy something to keep me from getting bored).
  2. I’m bored and it beats Xbox (True, but I still play my fair share of Call of Duty).
  3. To read the book before the movie comes out (Ahem, Hunger Games, Perks of Being a Wallflower and World War Z).

But I have another answer, something I was always semi-conscious of but never fully realized until around a month ago:

I read to get ideas for my novel that I am writing. Well since I’ve only written a few scattered pages I should say the novel that I plan to write.

Here are some things I’ve read about and plan to blend together into my novel:

1. Religion/spirituality/philosophy

I just finished reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, the allegory about a Spanish shepherd who travels to Egypt to find  treasure and his meaning of life. And it gave me an idea to make my story slightly allegorical and have parables and moral lessons in much the same way as The Alchemist and The Odyssey are simple tales that show our humanity and hopes. And I’ll throw in a little philosophy, too.

2. Beginning and ending the novel

I have deliberately read a diverse collection of books this summer (I went from the grueling Homicide to the upbeat X-Men to cool James Bond in a week). I read graphic novels, thrillers and young adult dystopians- to get a well-rounded look at literature.

And I have a habit at noticing the beginning and endings of novels- how do writers catch their reader’s attention?

One great beginning I saw was in Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, the witty take on a teenage breakup:

Dear Ed,

In a sec you’ll hear a thunk.

3. Thinking outside the box/ satire

Deadpool’s gun says, “One free one-liner with every kill.”

Another piece of inspiration for writing came from reading Deadpool & Cable from none other than Deadpool, the Merc with a Mouth, who breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the reader. How awesome is that! It gave me the idea of writing a book where the character knows he is in the book. Maybe it could be a satire on the entire novel culture and the character does something just to create a cliffhanger at the chapter break and says, “Find out what happens next chapter!”

4. Humor

Something I learned both from Deadpool and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is how to use humor. That’s something I need to learn! I have been told before -the person choosing his words carefully- that my writing is “Dry.” And no, he didn’t mean dry as in “Dry wit like in the British Office TV show,” he meant dry as in “Boring, dull.”

So I will try to make my writing more interesting and funny! That requires good dialogue and bizarre situations.

5. Science fiction/ fantasy

This is very important because my novel will be science fiction and fantasy. I have looked at how different sci-fi books have been written and how the future is presented. I obviously don’t want to copy a future technology or plot line so it is important to be knowledgeable about the genre.

My novel will have some components of space travel so I need to get at least a basic understanding about space travel as presented in sci-fi.

And I need to vividly describe the world I am imagining to give my readers the same world I envision.

So…

There is a reason I read so much. Yes, probably the biggest reason I read is to get lost in a new world, a world where magic or time travel is possible. But I also read for the (somewhat selfish) reason to improve my writing to see what other writers have done, evaluating what works and what does not.

Know any books worth checking out for their creative brilliance?

The Alchemist has a great encouragement for anyone trying to achieve their dreams. We just have to believe. As the King told the shepherd:

“When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.”

First picture (books) and text by Tim Worden

Categories
Books comic books

My Summer (Book!) Road Trip


Reading is my raison de être.

So, after a hectic semester in college, I am celebrating my freedom with a three-part summer goal: Read, read and read.

I can think of no better way of spending three months than by lounging around reading a good sci-fi or two. I just finished Carte Blanche, Jeffery Deaver’s sleek new take on James Bond. Luckily, I have a perfect part-time job at a library to top up my books when I’m runnin’ dry.

I’m thinking of my book summer as a road trip. Where will these books take me? I’ll find out!

So here’s my road trip itinerary:
(As with any good road trip, I might find a pleasant detour along the way.)

1) Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler- I’m a huge fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Handler’s alter ego Lemony Snicket. This one’s about teen love. I started it yesterday and am loving the novel’s humor.

2) X-Men Messiah Complex– After mutants are nearly wiped out, a new mutant is born, giving the X-Men hope.

3) X-Men Second Coming– Will the new mutant bring hope to mutant-kind?

4) Insurgent by Veronica Roth- Great young adult dystopian series where teens choose a faction that they are bound to follow their entire life based on their personality

5) Marvel’s Civil War and Spider Man: Peter Parker and The Amazing Spider Man Civil War tie-ins- Iron Man and Captain America, two of Earth’s mightiest heroes, have become enemies.

6) A gazillion other comic books! (Marvel of course)

6) Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson- You had me at ‘cyberpunk’.

7) The Alchemist by Paul Coelho- Don’t know much about it but it’s supposed to be good.

8) V for Vendetta and Watchmen by Alan Moore- The film versions of these graphic novels are good

9) Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson- A cyberpunk about hackers.

10) Spy novels- I’ll start with Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, then go to Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne novels, then add a few Tom Clancy novels for good measure.

11) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglass Adams- There are two ingredients to make a good book: Wittiness and science fiction. This doesn’t have either.

I am open to suggestions too, any good books I should check out?!

Categories
Anthropology Books comic books Culture Movies Science technology

Of Aliens and Men: Science Fiction, a Genre Code (Anthropology essay)

Wohoo, got to write an essay about science fiction! It was fun being able to write about The Hunger Games and X-Men!

This is my final paper for my Language and Culture Anthropology class. We have to evaluate a code, which is a genre (like punk rock music, or fashion, or mystery novels).

Star Wars envisions a planet with a binary sun system, somewhere far, far away…

INTRODUCTION

            Since its beginnings in the mid-1800s, science fiction has crept up to become a dominant genre in the United States. It hit the radar in the 1890s with H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, but did not reach mainstream status until the latter part of the century with Star Wars and Star Trek spawning thousands of sci-fi die-hards.

While I am focusing on science fiction literature, its popularity in television and film cannot be ignored: Roughly 44 of the top 100 highest-grossing films of all time incorporate some form of science fiction (Box Office Mojo 2012).

But what exactly is science-fiction, apart from alien invasions and cheesy graphics?

Science fiction is a genre textual code (Chandler 2011). A code is an interpretive framework of symbols that is dependent on many related characteristics. As a result, “Codes help to simplify phenomena in order to make it easier to communicate experiences” (Chandler 2011).

As a genre, science fiction allows readers to experience the mysteries of the universe. It seems like a cliché, but it is true: Are we alone? What if dinosaurs roamed the Earth today? What if I traveled 800,000 years in the future? What if reality is simply a projection from a game? All of these have been the subject of science-fiction plots. If Sigmund Freud were to peer deep into science fiction, he would determine that it represents an unconscious plea for pure escapism.

According to science fiction critic Gary Westfahl, science fiction as a “distinct and self-conscious genre” was founded by Hugo Gernsback in 1926 (McLeod 2010:170). The Gernsbackian definition of science fiction has three elements (McLeod 2010:170):

1. Charming romance/thrilling adventure (for mass appeal)

2. Scientific fact (intends to be scientifically plausible)

3. Prophetic vision (social consequences of an idea)

BODY

            As a genre, science fiction sets itself apart not with its superb characterizations or sensual love scenes, but by its ideas (Davis 2010:19). “Science fiction (delves) more actively into philosophical questions” (Davis 2010:19).

For example, what makes H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (1898) iconic is its fanciful vision of aliens in tripod machines wreaking havoc on the Earth. The novel ends with the aliens being, ironically, conquered by bacteria and the reader realizes without some Deus ex machina, humanity would have been easily wiped out. And the novel’s protagonist? “Whatzizname, who narrates all this to us, is no more interesting than the cellulose he is printed on” (Davis 2010:19).

Science fiction serves as an unfiltered realm for delving into the deep things of the universe. Fans of ABC’s sci-fi drama Lost realized this, and latched onto the show as hardcore fans intent on discovering the mythology of a mysterious island. Another hit sci-fi show, Fox’s The X-Files, achieved a cult following with fans and had –in 1998- more than 500 fan websites devoted to discussing the show’s conspiracies and mythology (McLean 1998:3).

Science-fiction allows the audience to experience alterity, or otherness, by imagining things outside the normal human experience.

“The media-driven milieu of The X-Files suggests that the whole world is now the same place, all of it accessible, all of it at once safe, dangerous, restricting, liberating. The North Pole is no more or less threatening than the New Jersey woods or a cheap motel room” (McLean 1998:8).

Science-fiction, then, mirrors Anthropology by exposing readers to alien cultures to better evaluate their own culture. Anthropology has ethnographers experience different cultures from places such as Papa New Guinea or Brazil. Science fiction has this alterity by exploring: cities of the future, alien planets, the wider universe, inner landscapes and places outside the traditional mappings of the world (Westfahl 2011:73).

The time-travel sub-genre of science fiction is able to comment on the current society by exploring what will happen in the future. Prominent examples are H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and BBC’s long-running Doctor Who, which follows an alien time traveler protecting Earth.

When The Time Machine was published in 1898, Victorian readers got an etic understanding of their own society’s class struggles. The reader is introduced to the working-class Morlocks and the aristocratic Eloi who inhabit Earth in 802,701 A.D. In fact, the novel can be interpreted as Wells imparting his Socialist idea of class struggle as he witnessed the growing gap between the working class and bourgeoisie during the Industrial Revolution (Mankus 2006:11).

Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island (1874) and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) take an optimistic view that technology helps colonialism (Reider 2010:203). The technology allows the inventor to reach the frontiers of human existence.  “The spatial frontier tends to coalesce with a technological one, because… the effect of the scientific discovery or invention is precisely to give its possessors a form of mobility and access to territories that no one else has” (Reider 2010:203).

Science-fiction also deals with the downsides of progress. Common in science fiction stories is a “Central Brain” which, due to its superior technology, decides to destroy humanity. In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), the increased connectivity of the world is not used for Facebook and texting, but to allow the government to monitor its citizen’s every move. And in Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men (2007), the Danger Room, a high-tech computer room the X-Men use for training, gains self-awareness and seeks to kill the X-Men (Whedon 2007). The Danger Room’s computer had been receiving upgrades to make it more intelligent until it finally realized it could overtake its creators. In the science fiction genre, characters often must defeat the technological threat by curing the corrupt technology, or, alternatively, unleashing a virus to destroy it (Westfahl 2011:48).

Further, technology allows those with the high-tech inventions to conquer the “primitive” people. In Avatar (2009), humans colonize another planet to mine a rare energy source while enslaving the peaceful natives.

“As an extended meditation on the potentials of technology, science fiction uses these end-of-time symbols to envision technology’s ultimate potentials, both good and evil” (Westfahl 2011:43).

But science fiction is not only just about deep philosophical and eschatological questions. Science fiction allows its audience to get lost in another world.

Viewers did not flock to Avatar to watch a 2-hour-40-minute flick about man abusing technology. They came to experience the fantastical, verdant world of Pandora. The planet was the decade-long brainchild of James Cameron, who invested an enormous amount of economic and creative resources into creating a fun new world (Westfahl 2011:73). From the ferns to the floating mountains to the mysterious world, viewers of the film were able to suspend their disbelief and peer into their own imaginations.

“Pandora produced a fictional place which is, for many viewers, by far the single most memorable thing about the film. Much of this impact clearly rests on the alterity of this extraterrestrial landscape.” (Westfahl 2011:73).

The visual power of science fiction cannot be ignored. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote A Princess of Mars (1917) to imagine a love story set on Mars, an exotic, fantastical planet with flying ships. It was done in much the same way that romantic comedies are set in New York or Paris today to emphasize the love story.

But these portrayals of the future are not always positive. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006) has the Eastern United States under continual ash after a nuclear war destroyed most of civilization, and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games (2008) presents a future in which cities are feudal slaves to a decadent capital.

Unlike space, the science fiction genre is not a vacuum. Science fiction has shifted over time as scientific advances and beliefs changed. The genre is a code defined by its writers, editors, readers and critics (Reider 2010:212).

Genres such as fantasy, action, drama and romance often cross into the realm of science fiction. The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003) by Audrey Niffeneger is more drama/romance than science fiction even though it centers on a time traveler. Niffeneger does not use the time travel to comment on future societies (the time traveler can only go a few years into the future, anyway), but to show the effects of time displacement on a young couple. And fantasy shares an appreciation to visually displaying an alternate world full of new laws, language and possibilities.

CONCLUSION

            Science fiction is fundamentally similar to most other fiction genres. It has a setting, plot, characters, dialogue and a climax. What differs is science fiction incorporates science and technology to have a story that is other-worldly. Sherlock Holmes and the Doctor from Doctor Who are both brilliant British detectives who solve cases. What differs between them is that Holmes tends to solve petty political disputes in London, whereas the Doctor has: Traveled to World War II London; witnessed the creation of the universe; and saved the Earth from Gothic statues, robots and aliens. Science fiction, as any literature genre, gets readers to peer into the human condition. It might do it with shiny new toys, but it checks the current society’s ethics, morality and path it is heading on into the future.

From spaceships to superpowers, science fiction is a textual genre code that lets man’s creative genius and imagination shine.


Categories
comic books Movies

Top 10 Superhero movies to prep for ‘The Avengers’

I made a last-minute decision to watch The Avengers at the midnight premiere tonight- I’ll get in line in a few hours.

Talking about The Avengers… Here’s a list of my Top-10 Superhero movies! (Published in Wednesday’s The Daily Titan.)

Fanboys Assemble!

Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman in The Dark Knight (photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)


1. The Dark Knight (2008)

What’s so good about this film? Not its $1-billion box office. Not its eight Academy Award nominations. The Dark Knight shines due to Batman (Christian Bale) and the Joker’s (Heath Ledger) chemistry. It is psychological and one of the most powerful pieces of writing seen in Hollywood. Batman, the face of justice, becomes an outlaw for simply helping the city.


2. X-Men: First Class (2011)

The origins of Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) are displayed alongside the world’s quest for power amid the Cold War. In a sense, the mutants mirror humanity’s potential. What propels this above the rest of the X-Men franchise is the psychological depth of the two characters and their tragic decisions.


3. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Chris Evans shows the allure of Captain America. Steve Rogers is an underdog from the beginning. His muscles do not make him arrogant. He is an honest man with a simple duty — to serve his country and help the underprivileged. His drafting into the Avengers in the middle of Times Square is one of the greatest scenes in superhero film history.


4. Iron Man (2008)

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a witty, likable character. He is an inventor who reminds us that technology can be used for good, or evil — something pressing in the technology age.


5. Thor (2011)

Villains make or break an action movie. Chris Hemsworth is a good Thor, but the film’s claim to fame is its villain, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Loki, the trickster god, has a plan up his sleeve to overtake his father Odin’s throne and be King of Asgard. Superb acting and an impressive visual appearance of Asgard make the film memorable.


6. Batman Begins (2005)

Batman’s origin story is done well. Explained are why he wants to save Gotham (corruption) and why he chooses the name Batman (to overcome his fear of bats). But the film suffers from a slow buildup.


7. Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man’s high-tech gadgets and suit upgrades makes this film good. The tie-in to the Avengers, with Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson as Avengers agents, makes it great.


8. The Green Hornet (2011)

Britt Reid (Seth Rogen), the son of a wealthy newspaper owner, joins mechanic martial arts expert Kato (Jay Chao) to become masked vigilantes to rid Los Angeles of crime. Rogen adds his characteristic humor in this surprise hit.


9. The Incredibles (2004)

The film most-suited for all audiences on the list, Pixar’s comedic take on the genre is all fun, exploring friendship and family.


10. Watchmen (2009)

A dark take on America during the Cold War, narrated by Rorschach, who sports an ink blot mask from a Rorschach test. Playing homage to a film noir, he is intent on solving why America’s superheroes are being mysteriously killed off.

And Hollywood is just warming up. The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man come out in July and Iron Man 3Thor 2Captain America 2 and Man of Steel will be out in a few years.

Categories
Books comic books Culture News

Happy Book Day! (And other thoughts on World Book and Copyright Day)

Tonight marks World Book Night, where volunteers will hand out free books in the U.S. and UK.

Today is World Book and Copyright Day, as celebrated by UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

You can check out its history here, but the day “seeks to promote reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright,” according to UNESCO.

Tonight is also World Book Night (unrelated to UNESCO), where volunteers will hand out free paperback books in the United States and United Kingdom. The 30 books include The Hunger Games, The Kite Runner and The Book Thief.

As an avid reader and a public library employee, I have one thing to say: Sounds good to me.

UNESCO has chosen the theme of Book Day to be on translation, as it’s the 80th anniversary of the the Index Translatonium, the U.N.’s translation database. But this is a boring theme for children. Why not science-fiction or graphic novels?

So I’m just going to skip this theme altogether and use this as my soapbox to talk about books and reading!

Some thoughts:

1.) Graphic novels have caught my eye recently. I use Marvel’s iPad app to check out free Marvel comics (like The Avengers and X-Men).

X-Men: Age of X is awesome.

2.) I just read House of M: The Avengers, about an alternate reality where evil mutants have taken over the Earth and regular humans are being enslaved. A small group of New York humans team up to protect their ‘hood.

3.) So now I am reading X-Men: Age of X, which I guess is another alternate reality where humans are fighting off the mutants, so the mutants (with Magneto at the helm) build a fortress.

Best part of the comic: Magneto hurling Chicago skyscrapers at his enemies as if they’re footballs.

So where am I going with this?

Oh yeah, you should read a book! Why? To exercise your imagination.

So here’s a list of easy books to read:

Clancy is known for his military expertise. I haven’t read this yet but I’ll get to it soon.

1. A young adult book– The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, The Giver

2. A comic book– The Avengers, X-Men or Spider Man

3. A fantasy book– The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Giver

4. A myster/thriller– by Tom Clancy or James Patterson

5. A history book– World War II, Civil War, Civil Rights Movement

6. A classic book– by Charles Dickens or Jane Austen

Categories
comic books Culture Movies

Prepping for The Avengers

20120418-223358.jpg

To celebrate The Avengers’ release May 4, I am currently writing a “Top 10 Superhero Movies” list for my school newspaper.

My superhero journey took me to Iron Man 2 today. I don’t plan on getting into review mode, but the film is decent (better than I remember). And the Avengers and Thor references make more sense now (back when I saw it in 2010 I was comic book-challenged).

For example, S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Colson gets reassigned to New Mexico to check out the Thor developments.

I started watching Kick-Ass as well but so far it is not promising and I might watch the Spider Man or X-Men 2 and 3 during the weekend.

It’s pretty awesome to relax and watch Iron Man and X-Men as “homework.”

So, what’s your favorite superhero movie?

UPDATE: Kick-Ass was actually decent. Good spin on the superhero genre.