Stan Lee: A Tribute

A 70 year writing career, an estimated net worth of over $50 million, 35 Marvel movie cameos, 121 total acting credits, 69 years of marriage to his wife Joan, and a #1 sense of humor are just some of the statistics that show how impressive Stan Lee was.  While remarkable, though, I knew about other achievements long before I ever discovered those numbers, and Lee’s comics and cameos are why his death has me looking up details about his life.

Stan Lee Civil War cameo

Stan Lee delivering some more of his characteristic humor in Captain America: Civil War

Although I have seen most of the Marvel movies from recent years, I cannot claim to be a truly dedicated Stan Lee fan, having (to my knowledge) only read one comic book he coauthored.  Nor can I rival the lengthy, well-researched bios that dot the Internet in the wake of his death, but I did want to give him a brief tribute.  And that is this: his cameos always made me smile, and the narrative voice I did encounter in the one comic I read had a tongue-in-cheek humor that was charming and timeless.

Entertaining audiences is a special gift, and Lee’s ability to do so makes me think of Donald O’Connor performing “Make ‘Em Laugh,” which claims that everyone wants to laugh and that a comedian who makes an audience laugh is greater than a critically-acclaimed Shakespeare.  Not to disparage Shakespeare, of course, but I do understand the sentiment and enjoy a good laugh like the next person.  In his work, Lee seems to understand that his audiences wanted to have fun and also to be inspired to become superheroes, whether in great or small ways or simply in their imaginations.  I expect Stan Lee will always hold a special place in the hearts of comic book enthusiasts and superhero-smitten audiences, just as he holds a place in every Marvel movie with his quirky personality and signature sunglasses.

arrietty pic



Across Five Decades: Old and New Black Panther Comics

Black Panther coverIntrigued by the release of the new Black Panther film earlier this year, I decided to try out some of the Black Panther comics which have preceded it.  I started with the only comic book I could find at my local library that had “book one” in the title, which turned out to be a 2016 rejuvenation of the series.  The slender volume I picked up was Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

While I did not find A Nation Under Our Feet particularly coherent or artistically impressive, the comic does provide an intro into the Black Panther world for those who, like me, are curious about the latest superhero Marvel has transferred from comic book to silver screen.  Perhaps the best part of the comic is the last half, which includes a map and history of Wakanda and concludes with a snippet from the very first 1966 comic Black Panther appeared in, where Black Panther features as a character the Fantastic Four encounter.  (Or should I say face?  Black Panther has changed a lot since his first debut 🙂 .)

1966 Black Panther comicIn spite of cartoonish colors and somewhat cheesy dialogue, I found myself enjoying the older comic more than the new one.  The authors (Stan Lee being a prominent one) have a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and use their powers as narrators to talk directly to the audience.  Further, although the artwork is not nearly as slick as in more recent Black Panther installments, I thought it was laid out well and kept the story easy to follow.  Finally, while certain tidbits—such as asbestos being an innovative material—certainly date the comic, I actually found these aspects to be part of the appeal.

arrietty pic


Thor: The Dark World


Last week, Flint, Bone, and Arrietty went to the movies. Here are their observations on the show.

Flint’s Focus

I will be quite frank: the character Loki makes what would otherwise be a mediocre superhero movie into a pretty good one. Villains these days (apart from the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight) seem to largely be one or two dimensional characters whose existence is justified simply so that the hero has someone to thump. However, the latest Thor movie turns this around. Loki is the most interesting character in the whole film. He has emotions and desires that constantly leave me guessing as to what is real and what is a hoax. He actually feels more genuinely human than any other character in the entire movie. In contrast, Thor himself, Jane Foster, and all of the other characters remain largely unchanged throughout the movie, running through their predictable lines and choices. If all you want in a movie is a buff Chris Hemsworth saving the world and his girlfriend, then you can enjoy the movie completely.  However, if you want intriguing characters, then you’ll have to watch the movie for the sake of Loki who almost makes the movie worth watching all by himself.

Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston)

Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston)

Bone’s Blurb

Though a good movie to see in theaters (good spectacle) and with friends or family (good company), this latest movie from the Marvel universe seemed very unremarkable–perhaps it was the movie itself, or perhaps it was the knowledge going into the movie that nothing climactic would happen since Thor and the other characters will have to be present for Avengers 2. That said, as Flint notes, the character Loki dominates Thor 2. This is the first time I’ve walked out of a theater saying to myself, “That movie wasn’t particularly good as a whole, but it was worth watching because that character (Loki) was really fascinating.” This, perhaps, is the one potential advantage to creating a string of serialized movies–there’s the opportunity to create more multi-faceted, three-dimensional characters that can carry movies with their personalities even when everything else about a movie is forgettable.

Arrietty’s Angle

I enjoyed Thor: The Dark World.  Although the film’s story is far from extraordinary, thanks to its characters, it makes a fun and worthwhile movie.  After watching more and more superhero movies, I have come to realize that an excellent villain is key to a good movie.  For example, Captain America has a great protagonist and a passable story, but because its villain is underdeveloped and flat, the movie was unremarkable.  The makers of Thor have managed to avoid this flaw, for they have crafted one of the greatest super-villains ever:  Loki.  With his double-sided nature, illusions, deceptions, slipperiness, and smiles, Loki captures the viewer’s attention and catches one off-guard almost all the time.  When the movie’s over, it’s Loki that keeps one wondering, “Why did he do that?”  Loki’s the most interesting character in the movie, and I’m always hoping he’ll reform.  Some movie-goers may watch this movie for the story, for Thor, for Jane Foster, for its CGI, or maybe just because they love superhero films, but I think Loki provides a better reason for seeing this movie than anything else.