Since my wife (the Beautiful and Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk) and I have seen most, if not all, of the MCU movies released recently, I thought it might be a good idea to go back and look at the two most recent—while they’re still recent! (And for the uninitiated, there is the MCU—the Marvel Comics Universe, with something like 18 films announced for the next five or six years—and the DCU, featuring Bat guys and Super persons and Wonderous Women. Those are the Majors; there are minors, featuring characters from Dark Horse and other comic/graphic novel publishers. In the MCU, we’ve seen several Iron Man movies, several Hulk movies and reboots, a couple of Thor films, two Captain Americas, three Spidermans and two reboots (and we’re about to get more reboots), two Avengers (“puny God!”), a bunch of X-Men and a buttload of Wolverines; and I’ve probably missed a couple in the list. And we’re about to get a Civil War movie with most of the Avengers fighting each other, a Benedict Cumberbatch Doctor Strange, and Netflix has Daredeviled us (oh, yeah, a Daredevil—Affleck—and an Elektra movie too), Jessica Jones’d us and is about to Luke Cage us. But wait! There’s more! If you order today… sorry. Seen too many Ron Popeil commercials in my lifetime. Anybody here ever order the Pocket Fisherman? So although I did enjoy Deadpool and Ant-Man, I thought it would be worth our while to take another look. Oh, and I have some thoughts for all would-be writers, as well. So let’s dig in, shall we?
When I was in High School (a long, long time ago in a country right Next Door), Marvel’s “Silver Age” was in full swing; we read comics such as Tales to Astonish, Amazing Fantasy, Journey Into Mystery, Strange Tales and Tales of Suspense. Now, if you weren’t around in the early ‘60s, you might not recognize the titles, but each comic starred a superhero who hadn’t yet gotten his own magazine. I’m referring to (in order of the above) Ant-Man, Spiderman, Thor, Doctor Strange and Iron Man. (Actually, Amazing Fantasy and Journey Into Mystery came first, chronologically.) In short order, some of those heroes got their own zines. The idea of premiering superheroes in a different zine was used first, probably, in some of the “Golden Age” comics of the ‘30s, and Superman and Batman—to name two—each appeared in comics besides their own; Superman was in Action comics (where he had appeared from the first) and Batman was in Detective Comics; the two joined forces in World’s Finest Comics. But anyway, Ant-Man didn’t have his own comic until 2015, that I’m aware of (if I’m wrong, someone will correct me!), thanks to the movie of the same name. (Ditto Deadpool, though he appeared in other Marvel books as far back as 1991.)
When I was reading comics regularly—and most kids could afford to read multiple titles in the ‘60s, as they were still mostly ten and twelve cents each—I read Tales to Astonish, but was never overly enthralled by Ant-Man. About all I remember of that Ant-Man was that he was a scientist named Henry Pym; I have no recollection of how he shrank down to ant size, but the helmet he wore gave him the ability to communicate with and control actual ants. I vaguely remember his wife, name of Janet Van Dyn, who became The Wasp; she had working wings, apparently, at miniature size. I don’t know why Pym didn’t. Eventually, boredom set in and I stopped reading it, except occasionally, but I remembered it. And then Marvel came out with an Ant-Man movie, and… well, I had to go see it (if only because every movie and TV show in the MCU is connected with most if not all of the books, and things that happen in one are reflected in another. So if you miss them, you’ll miss out on developments) and find out how they translated this teeny-weeny guy into a superhero on film. Well, as far as I can tell, they did their usual good job with the graphics. Marvel’s CGI teams are nearly flawless. Too bad their movie writers aren’t quite up to that level—at least for this movie.
So I’ve seen it twice, and I quite enjoyed it the first time. The story has been updated from the ‘60s version; Henry Pym (played by Michael Douglas) has retired from the firm he created—not necessarily of his own volition—and sometime before that decided that the power to shrink was too dangerous for general knowledge and not only stopped working on it, but also suppressed all research leading to it (but not before making and keeping a suit that allows him to shrink to ant size and grow back to normal size, as well as communicate with ants).But apparently back in the time when he was Ant-Man, his wife was killed by a runaway reaction in the regulator (the doohickey that controls shrinking and growing), so he “put away childish things” and suppressed the technology.
Our new hero, played by Paul Rudd, is Scott Lang, who went to jail for doing something reprehensible (or illegal) to the company or organization that screwed him over, can’t remember who or what. Not important, anyway. Paul Rudd was chosen because (at least according to Facebook) he’s a hunk and/or a heartthrob; he appears pleasant and personable, anyway. I’m not really familiar with him as an actor; as far as I can tell, I haven’t seen any of the things he had a major part in. (Yes, I know, my tastes in humour are obviously not the same as the majority’s. In my less-than-humble opinion, the guy in the TV series Limitless, Jake McDorman, would have been a much better choice for this character. He plays a total goof-off, but as you can see by the most recent episode, he can also play serious. And he’s likeable; gadzooks, is he likeable! But I digress.)
Scott gets out of prison, where he’s met by his friend Luis, played by Michael Peña—I thought he was the best and most likeable character in the movie! Luis and his other friend want Scott to go in on a job with them to burgle some rich guy with an honest-to-God safe in his basement, dude! Scott demurs, as he has a job with Baskin-Robbins, selling their ice cream and Mango smoothies. He needs to make money to pay child support; his wife has divorced him and married a cop. However, Scott’s boss has found out about his criminal past (“You can’t hide something like that from Baskin-Robbins”) and fires Scott, who reluctantly agrees to use his technical skills to bypass the alarm on the rich dude’s house and break into the safe. Except when he gets there, there’s nothing in the safe except some motorcycling suite and a weird helmet. He steals it, and accidentally activates it after trying it on, and is so freaked out—especially by Hank Pym’s voice in his ears—that he breaks into the house again and returns the suit. Upon leaving the premises, he is immediately arrested by the police (who were called by Hank’s daughter, Hope Van Dyn). And there’s where the story really begins.
The problem here is that the science is inconsistent—they say that Scott can beat people up while he’s ant-sized because he retains his full-size mass (Pym’s suit shrinks the spaces between atoms, y’see) and if he punched someone they’d be like hit by a 200-lb bullet. Or something like that. I think that what would happen would be that his fist would make a really small hole in whomever he punched. And another thing; there’s a gag where
***GAG SPOILER***Skip the next paragraph if you don’t want to know this:
a real tank has been used as a keyring, except that when it’s enlarged, it’s a full-sized working tank. So why was he able to carry a tank’s mass in his pocket? Yeah, I know, I should take my cue from MST3K—“If you’re wondering how they eat and breathe and other science facts/Just tell yourself it’s just a show; you should really just relax.” I’m inconsistent that way.
And small things (I won’t say what, so as to not spoil other gags) that get enlarged apparently have the mass they would have if they were originally large. But you get my point. That’s just one of the things that has always bugged me about Ant-Man. The other thing is that the movie is really very slow. Lots of setup for not a whole lot of payoff. They would have been better off making it a comedy and giving Michael Peña a bigger part, in my opinion. It’s not a bad movie, it’s just not a really good movie like a lot of Marvels have been. (Bad one? Iron Man 3, IMO.) Anyhow, there’s a villain who is out to (“…dare I say it? Rule the world!”—Help!) make an army of miniature fighters, using stolen Pym technology, and Hank Pym (retired, remember?) enlists Scott as the new Ant-Man to stop him. I don’t want to go into too much detail; it’s all pretty standard stuff, except for the graphics, which are pretty darned good!
And now we come to Deadpool. I was vaguely familiar with the character—I think I’d read a recent Spiderman with him in it (one of the ones after Miles Morales became Spiderman). I knew he was called “The Merc With The Mouth,” and that he apparently couldn’t be killed, but I knew little else about him. Now I know that he’s been around for—wait for it!—25 years! (Thanks, Wikipedia!) I also found out, courtesy of the Wiki, that he was played by Ryan Reynolds already in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and that he was the dude who had everyone’s powers including Cyclops’s, and whose head was cut off and destroyed the atomic cooling tower! Whoa! Looks like I needed a crash course! (So I got some fairly recent Deadpools, like Deadpool – Dracula’s Gauntlet and Deadpool’s Secret Wars [both 2015], and read up a bit.) And from what I can tell, by casting Ryan Reynolds in this movie, Marvel (or whomever did the casting) really, really nailed the character. He’s profane, obscene, funny, athletic, heroic and antiheroic, mouthy, sexy, and a whole lot more.
I had known before going into the theatre that this movie was rated “R”; in fact, I saw a video online where Reynolds (whom I absolutely like as an actor) had pleaded with viewers not to take their kids to see the show because of its content. However, many parents apparently didn’t care (and to be honest, I think it depends on the parent, the kid, and the level of maturity; there’s no way to make a blanket statement—but consider the rating before you take your kid to it) and there was a fairly good proportion of teenagers and younger kids in the theatre. You get a sense of what the film is like right from the get-go; the opening credits are a slo-mo action sequence where Deadpool is floating in space with his guns and katanas and the on-screen titles say something like “Directed by some asshat” and “Starring a hottie” and “With a moody teenager” and “With a CGI Character) and like that. Funny titles.
When we first meet Ryan R’s character, Wade Williams (Deadpool’s real name), he’s fulfilling a contract he’s taken on (a merc, remember). We learn he’s ex-Special Forces and apparently only takes contracts he likes. He hangs out in a bar for mercs, owned by his friend Weasel (T.J. Miller), who runs a pool on who’s gonna die (the “dead pool,” get it?). He meets Copycat (Morena Baccarin), who “rubs fuzzies for money,” as Williams says (my quote may not be exact, but I’ve captured the spirit); they get to comparing whose childhood was worse (à la Monty Python’s Flying Circus—“We had to live in a hole in the road!”) and end up rubbing fuzzies, becoming boyfriend/girlfriend, as their crazinesses dovetail like jigsaw puzzle pieces. Into the bar comes The Recruiter (Jed Rees), who offers Wade the chance to become a superhero, but Wade turns him down, because if there’s one thing Wade isn’t, it’s a hero. (He says.)
Well, as fate would have it, Wade has contracted cancer, which has metastasized; it’s in his liver, colon, lungs, prostate, brain (“All things I can do without,” he quips), which makes it unlikely he and Copycat will have much of a future… so he sneaks out one night and signs up with The Recruiter. Whereupon he meets Ajax (Ed Skrein), whose real name turns out to be Francis. (That’s important; remember it.) Ajax’s method of making superheroes is to inject the volunteer with something that will activate any mutant genes that may be lurking in the volunteer’s DNA… if they are tortured hard enough. And that’s the whole crux of how Wade becomes Deadpool. In case you’re not familiar with the character and haven’t seen the movie, I’ll stop here. Suffice it to say that ahead of you is about two hours of profanity, action, slapstick, gore, explosions, more gore, nudity, bullets, fourth-wall breaking, knives and swords, more profanity, sex and all the stuff teenagers love (but can’t see because it’s R-rated!); made hilarious by Reynold’s acting. The same way Ron Perlman was born to play Hellboy, I think Ryan Reynolds was born to play Deadpool. His movie character is very much like the comic character—and that’s rare. Comics seldom transition to movies as well as books do, partly because with a book the character is more nebulous and your internal image can dovetail with the screen character (or not); but comics provide a concrete image for you… and often the movie fails to flesh that character out. Or jibe with your mental image. I recommend it (highly); it passes the “second viewing” test. But unless you think your teenager or younger kids are mature enough to see all the stuff I’ve described, leave ‘em at home. They won’t thank you for it, but you’ll have less to explain. Oh, and speaking of comic characters coming to life, look at Colossus. A CGI character who’s really real-looking. And just like the comic. Incidentally, what’s with all the people leaving a Marvel movie before the credits are over? Scores of them left, missing the coda to the film (which was not a preview this time). I won’t say any more about it, except that my wife beat me to recognizing it. It’s a takeoff on something well-known. Last word on it: it’s funny!
DEPARTMENT OF STUFF FOR WRITERS: sometimes, as a writer—especially a newer or unpublished writer—it’s hard to get started. The internet offers a wealth of information for writers, and I’ve got a couple of items you might be able to use. Are you familiar with Pinterest? There are a couple of Pinterest boards with writing tips. Check this one out: https://www.pinterest.com/AgentSchooley/story-ideastips/?utm_campaign=bprecs&e_t=145b2de8078b4e64935d8f22732fd80b&utm_content=548735604536649067&utm_source=31&utm_term=1&utm_medium=2004.
Also, I’m always looking for information related to writing; sometimes what you find is not what you expect. A couple of my writing-related groups sent a link in email to a program that is supposed to help you create a novel or story. Normally, I take those with a chunk of salt—there are any number of scammers on the internet who are dying to take your money and deliver nothing useful (as you already know); in fact, I’m planning to write an exposé on one such program soon. But this one actually has some weight to it; I checked it out and it’s a valid randomizer that could possibly give someone some useful ideas. I paid $10 Canadian for it (yes, I do pay for these things sometimes, as part of my undercover reporter role), and expected it to be a ripoff, but once I had downloaded it, I found it somewhat enjoyable. At least, I laughed quite a bit while testing it out. (The price, by the way, is lower right now, and increases with every copy sold until it reaches its “retail” price of $29.95 or so.) Let me describe it a bit, then I’ll give you the link.
It’s called the “Fiction Novel Generator” (and yes, I know that if it’s a novel, it’s fiction by definition, I believe) and it has several parts: A random plot generator, a random character name and description generator; a random setting generator, etc. Here are a few I came up with while playing with it. (My writing group in Moscow, Idaho, called Writers’ Bloc, used to have our own “random first line generator,” name of Jon Gustafson. He came up with the line “There were rats in the soufflé again,” which inspired a couple of dozen publishable—and published!—stories.) These are randomly generated:
When a prisoner escapes, a convent of nuns go on a riverboat trip. The story is commenced by the attack of a giant sea monster.
An aging nanny has limited time to find an antidote to a deadly virus. The circumstances are resolved by the King’s return.
FIRST LINE GENERATOR
My friend Joe said London would never feel the same, after the aliens take over.
Call me Mother for I am the Witchfinder General and I’ve come for you.
The evening when my family stole the Crown Jewels, I became a gangster’s bodyguard.
CHARACTER NAME GENERATOR
Male name – Albert Ebeling
Female name – Niesha Ebeling
Male name – Lorenzo Giordano
Female name – Aradia Giordano
CHARACTER PROFILE GENERATOR
This character has a broken nose. They were brought up as a science experiment and after leaving school they worked in an office. They married the girl next door. When they served time for fraud they turned over a new leaf. Now they draw a government pension.
This character is bitter and cynical. They have the smooth features of an innocent. They were stolen by the fairies. Their parents were tree huggers. They were educated by a succession of expensive schools. They married their first love. They have an oafish air.
Write lyrics for a three verse song (with chorus) about spring.
Write the back cover blurb for a novel based on explorers trapped in a snowbound cabin.
PLOT TWIST GENERATOR
The policeman announces they are emigrating.
The decorator mistakenly incinerates the bronze, believing it to be worthless.
The villain murders the heroine’s mentor.
BOOK TITLE GENERATOR
1. Smooth Lord
2. The Green Silk
3. Secret of Moon
4. The Servants’s Slave
5. The Beginning of the Boy
6. Edge in the Game
Anyhow, if you’re stuck on a blank page, it’s a fun way to generate an idea (or maybe germinate one). And reasonably cheap. Go here: http://clicks.aweber.com/y/ct/?l=O4afI&m=3hzwVcuZMkgjZPc&b=Ifmcgq9jUX6YIJdUd1rfqQ
If you get a chance, please comment on this week’s column; I’d appreciate it. You can register here—it’s free, and takes only a moment—and comment; or you can comment on my Facebook page. Or you can comment in the several Facebook groups where I publish a link to this column. Don’t feel you have to agree with me to post a comment, either; whether I agree with you or not, I’m ready to listen. My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owners, editors, publishers or other bloggers. See you next week!