There’s more than just pictures down memory lane

Up from The Cape: 10 Jan 2017    Cape-central-emblem

I’ve been purging about thirty years’ worth of my life history, or clutter if you prefer. Although the bulk of the mining and clear-out of my time capsule (aka my flat) has finished, small pockets of rubble still retain traces of glittering finds that are more than just fool’s gold.

I happened upon a few photocopied sheets of a “Silver Surfer” Marvel Comic sent to me years ago by a friend with a sense of mischief. It’s a wonderful illustration of how people who write for comics often imagine that advanced civilizations talk like Yoda. It leads to conversations in which the characters, in this case The Silver Surfer, rear up in an “action” posture as they stare off into the distance. As soon as they’ve struck a pose they say ludicrous things like “Where lurks the Overlord? He is yet to be vanquished!” For my part I kept asking “Where lurks the writer’s talent?”

The first general principle in this field is that you take a simple sentence and jumble the words up in a way that makes them appear to be portentous. In one instance the words “When the saucer lands” (which is to say an alien spacecraft, not some crockery knocked from a trolley carelessly) was transformed into “When lands the saucer”. The saucer landing, by the way, was attended as you might expect in a comic, by men running away from it with their mouths wide open as if they’d just bashed their thumbs with a hammer.

“When lands the saucer” is a sentence intended only to be spoken by old, bearded men dressed in robes. They write on parchment with quill pens – even in the distant future. Helpfully, this is exactly the image Marvel Comics provided when our smug bald super hero (surrounded for a purpose lost to me by a dotted line that renders the background around him faint), pops into the local quill-pen users library. He demands aloud in the manner of someone with an IL DUCE complex “Attendant! I desire to study the early days of Zenn-La SPACE TRAVEL!” Just prior to blurting out this demand his thought bubble betrayed that he believed “Only by studying the past will I learn why the present is….to me….so totally UNENDURABLE!” I could have saved him the trouble. It’s because of Facebook, Twitter, and people who use sms-speak in email. It’s unendurable to me too.

Much in this vein, The Silver Surfer manages to barge in on “The Prince of Darkness”, known more colloquially as “The Overlord”. Here he appears either drunk or brain-damaged. Abruptly he starts talking gibberish, demanding to know amid theatrical gestures “What have you done with Shalla Bal?” The Overlord, a requisite winged, fanged creature hovering over a few mountain peaks, doesn’t react to this gibberish well. “Still your tongue!” he says sternly. “NONE may threaten the PRINCE OF DARKNESS! Here, within my dread domain, it is I who ask…it is YOU who answer! And so I now DEMAND….HOW DID YOU FIND THIS STYGIAN SPHERE??” Confidentially, this is the sort of dialogue that goes through my head routinely whenever I imagine ringing the council to complain about a missed rubbish collection. I suppose it’s what happens when you spend too much time on your own.

All of this said, comics are still several rungs further up the ladder than some of the movies made from them. I had the misfortune/bad judgment recently to watch half an hour of “Iron Man 2”. It was a wafer-thin vehicle for eye candy, and for Scarlett Johansson to stalk through it with a face on her as if she’d just eaten a bad shrimp. I’m guessing that’s what “girl power” is in movies these days (that and choreographed improbable martial arts). Iron Man’s girlfriend was no better.  She was the standard modern humourless female know-it-all who seems to have been genetically engineered to judge, nag, and be right at all times. If I’d been Robert Downey Jr, I’d have been using all the hi-tech Iron Man kit to get as far away from that sniping glacial harpy as possible, preferably at something in excess of Mach 3.

Amusingly, the woman’s name in the film was a nice illustration of how life can leave clues about what’s in store next. She was called “Pepper”. After the briefest exposure to her my nose was wrinkling. Typically, Iron Man was too busy wisecracking to notice. If Pepper had been involved with The Silver Surfer she would have had her hands full. He might have clenched a fist aloft and commanded “Be silent! Am I my father’s son to be ridiculed by your inane chatter?” Technically that would be a brave thing to say, not so much because of recriminations, or Johansson’s bad shrimp face. I was thinking more that it’s slightly risky to complain about being ridiculed when you spend the day dressed in a sort of Gimp outfit with bandit make-up around your eyes, carrying a surf board wherever you go. Still, whatever rings your bell.

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