In which anticipation for the Avengers pays off

The Avengers has come and gone for me. Color me disappointed. Not in the film itself,it was everything I wanted it to be. The banter was there, the characterizations were there and the spectacle, oh the spectacle, was there. But what’s disappointing is that now it’s over, I’ve seen it and wonder, what’s next.

The Avengers movie was a dream in the waiting for me. Sure, I’m 45 now, but I distinctly remember as a kid wanting to see real live superheroes. Those old Marvel cartoons and Super Friends were great, but as a little kid I just knew superheroes were out there. Growing up, wanted to go to New York City so bad. Why? Just to catch a glimpse of Spider-Man swinging through the city. I knew he was there and if I could just get my Dad to take me, it would be the highlight moment of my young life. Alas, it never happened and a dream was deferred.

Later, there were some live action TV shows featuring superheroes. There was Spider-Man. Good show, not great. But Spidey’s webs in that show, classic. Those weren’t webs baby, they were some serious ropes. And I don’t recall it clearly but I don’t think we ever saw webswinging in those shows. Wall crawling, sure. But no swinging. There was, of course, the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno Hulk series. While I remember the Lou Ferrigno Hulk stuff in that show what always stood out to me was how very sad David (huh?) Banner’s life was. Not much superheroics when you’re all weepy at the end of the show. There were more: Thor, Daredevil, Captain America, etc. But none of these were really great. I guess the technology of the era wasn’t up to the challenge. So again, a dream deferred. (And yes, I know I’m not talking about Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman – buy hey, I’m a Marvel guy).

But then, in 2002 everything changed. Spider-Man was brought to the big screen and they let a geek do it. Spider-Man was everything I wanted to see when I was a kid. I had to wait until I was 36 to see it but there it was. Wall crawling and web swinging! And everything kind of spiraled out from there. So it was all good (well not Daredevil or Elektra but still, progress). Then someone at Marvel remembered the two things that made Marvel Comics so good back in the sixties. Real characters and a shared continuity. Iron Man hinted at this in 2008 with a small clip at the end of the credits when Nick Fury tells Iron Man about the Avengers Initiative. Be still my geeky heart. Were they really going to try this? Were they really going to make an ensemble superhero movie? And every movie Marvel made subsequently held out that promise.

I won’t lie, I have been looking forward to seeing The Avengers, not since 2008 but since about 1978. That small, quiet kid who so desperately wanted to be something more, to be special, wanted to see that opportunity for superheroics held out to him. He wanted to know it was possible for superheroes to exist. And Marvel finally provided that, 30 years later.

But, as with all things so eagerly anticipated, they eventually arrive. Sometimes those things are everything you hoped they would be, and sometimes they are not. But either way, they have occurred. And that, it seems to me is the real problem with anticipation. Be it for superhero movies or life changes eventually that moment will come. And then you have that “now what do I do moment?”. Personally, I’m facing that “what do you do now” moment with my career. I think the correct response is to live in the moment and know you’ll make the right decisions that will ultimately take care of the future. Hopefully I’ll be as successful as Joss Whedon and Marvel as I make my decisions.

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On Comics and DC’s New 52

As I’ve mentioned, the foremost of my geek passions is comic books. I’m a  mainstream superhero guy, mostly Marvel and DC. I’ve always loved Spider-Man and the X-Men on the Marvel side and the JLA and Firestorm on the DC side. While I enjoy the continuity of comics on the one hand, I have always loved alternate reality stories in the comic world. The best example of that are Marvel’s “What-If” stories but there have been other versions of the idea, my favorite being “Kingdom Come” over at DC.

So I have been especially intrigued with what DC Comics has planned with the reboot of their entire universe. The willingness to overwrite 50+ years of continuity is audacious and I’ve been interested to see how they’d do it. DC kicked things off last week with Justice League which I really enjoyed, but the meat of it was this week with the release of 13 new books. Now a blogger I follow, CS Daley, is planning to review each of the New 52. I have no such ambition. I do plan to read them all though. I think the big 2 questions for DC in all this are: 1) how any people will buy the second issue of these books and 2) how many new people will begin reading these books.

I don’t expect to buy all 52 of these books on a monthly basis. There are certain titles that are a given: the Superman books, JLA, core Batman titles, etc. But  the reason for my buying all 52 number ones is to see if anything else grabs my attention. Out of the first week’s run here are the titles that surprised and intrigued me enough that I’m getting the next issue:

Yeah, they're bagged and boarded.

Swamp Thing In all honesty I’ve never been a fan of this book (not even the “OMG Alan Moore is a god” version). But something about this issue really piqued my interest. I like the TV Hulk aspect of it that Alec Holland is on the run from his past. I appreciated the little details like the plants constantly reaching out to him and the big detail of Holland essentially telling Superman to kiss off.  No spoilers, but the two hooks at the end of the book left me wanting more so I’ll be back next month.

Animal Man My only exposure to Animal Man are guest appearances and his roles in DC’s Infinite Crisis fallout books. I think what pulled me into this book was the focus on Animal Man’s home and personal life and less so the action. Here’s a guy struggling with what we all struggle with: career, family, fatherhood. He just happens to have a real cool side job. Not sure how long I’ll keep going with this but hey, have me for at least one more issue. I’d like to see a better artist on this book though.

Green Arrow Wow, they totally rebooted Green Arrow. It seems to me they’ve pulled generously from the Smallville version of Oliver Queen, especially his look. Of all the characters so far he seems the most obviously de-aged.  The art here is great and I like the new Rogues Gallery and support team they’ve created for GA. I think I’m on board for the long haul here.

Justice League International I went into this book tentatively. I never enjoyed Justice League Europe by Giffen and DeMatteis (I enjoy humor in a comic book but not slapstick). I was afraid JLI would follow a similar path. There’s humor here, but it’s not corny. This issue is a pretty standard team origin story. Interestingly, it’s being done in the way that many critics say the new Justice League book should have done. Dan Jurgens gets all the characters in at once and we get to see their initial effort to work as a team. I enjoyed the interplay of the various nationalities involved and the use of the old Hall of Justice from the cartoon. I’ll be back for future issues if they’re as good as this one.

As to the rest of Week 1, here’s how I see future purchases.

In for the long haul: Action Comics, Detective Comics

Giving it another try with issue 2: Batgirl, O.M.A.C., Static Shock, Stormwatch

At least I’ll have #1: Batwing, Hawk and Dove, Men of War

For those of you who also picked some (or all) of these titles up, what did you think?

In which I contemplate a new acquisition

I used to travel quite a bit for my job, at least 2 weeks a month for 3 or 4 days a week. Business travel is a mixed bag for me. It is nice to see new places but I usually don’t have (or don’t make) the time to actually enjoy them. What I don’t like though, is being away. Being away from my family, being away from my bed and being away from my hobbies.The good news is, as I’ve risen through the ranks (leveled up?) I’ve gained the ability to control and limit my travel. Which leads to the topic of this blog post.

This week, I learned that I’m going to be working on some additional projects. It’s a good thing,but it will mean more travel, especially at the beginning. So as I’m sitting there with my boss, discussing this, one thought randomly enters my mind: “I’m going to need to buy a good gaming laptop.” And as this pretty important conversation goes on, my mind keeps circling back to this gaming laptop: “What kind should I get? How expensive will it be? Will my wife mind? How stupid is this? Get out of my head stupid gaming laptop!” Fortunately, I was able to push this thought back and really focus on the conversation, which turned out pretty well.

So why do I “need” a gaming laptop anyway? You see, I’ve played City of Heroes with roughly the same group of people every Wednesday night since the summer of 2007. Back when we started I was traveling more, but I had a laptop that could handle the game. Those days are long past. And I really like playing with this group. It’s probably the longest sustained geek/nerd gathering in my life. while I’ve never met any of these people in real life I consider them good friends. It’s not something I want to give up on. It’s my version of Bowling League night or the group I golf with every Saturday. And y’know, I get to pretend to be a superhero. How cool is that?

This whole situation is a great example of how bifurcated my life is. Banker by day, geek by night. When people find out what I do (banker guy) they think that’s who I am. They fit me into a neat little mold of who I should be. But I’m not that guy. Don’t get me wrong, I am very good at what I do but given infinite resources, I wouldn’t do it. What I love is games, comics and science fiction. That’s who I am and I think that explains why my thoughts wandered where they did. It’s a great opportunity for me but I’m always going to view it in terms of who I am and how it impacts my passions. I’m OK with that.

So, I’m going to wait and see how this thing plays out at work. And I guess I’m going to start pricing gaming laptops. They can’t be that expensive, can they?

In which I explain why I teared up at the end of Captain America

(To be clear here, I said teared up, not wept.)

A couple of weeks ago the boys (they’re 14 and 12 for the uninitiated) and I went out to see Captain America, the First Avenger. Without a doubt this was the best superhero movie we saw all summer and definitely one of the top 3 I’ve seen since the current superhero movie run began.

Seeing movies like this with the boys is important to me. Of all the geek stuff I am into, comics are my #1 passion. Aside from a brief collection stoppage when I first got married, I have collected comics since I was about 13.  I have worked hard to pass this along to both boys.  I started out sharing comics with them early, both reading them to the kids and getting additional superhero books for them to read. They both have at least a long box of their own (which hold double capacity the way they have them piled and jammed in there, no CGC 9.8 ratings in there ).

The along came the superhero movies. When X-Men came out in 2000 they were way too young to watch it with me. I showed them clips and trailers though, longing for the day when we could share the full experience. Little did I know then how comic book movies would explode through the 2000s. So many great (and good) movies were made. More often than not I went to see them alone or worked to convince a friend to hit the movies with me. My wife is geek adjacent (thank Wil Wheaton) so she understands my love for these things but that doesn’t always extend to sharing that experience (unless Hugh Jackman is in the movie).

So accelerate now to the closing minutes of Captain America. Sure it’s a bit sad as we realize that Steve will never get that dance. But that’s not what choked me up. As I watched the last minutes of that movie, after watching so many fun superhero movies with the boys this summer, I realized what a great summer it has been. At a certain level this is what I always wanted Fatherhood to be, to share my interests and passions and to pass them along. Then I realized that they’re 14 and 12, they were just toddlers when X-Men came out. But it seems like just yesterday. And now I have only a few years left with them to share these experiences. I want to cherish each and every opportunity I have over the next few years before they head off to college and their own, independent lives.

And that my friends, is why I teared up (I did not weep) at the end of Captain America. They were tears of joy and love for my boys who all to soon will be men.