If you’re looking for something a little different in the super-hero genre, then I’m going to gently turn your head in the direction of 1602. Once again, I’m a bit late to the party, but now that I’m here, I’m hooked.
Marvel Comics likes to reimagine its popular (and unpopular) characters in alternate histories, and I usually find them a bit dull. 1602 is a little different, probably because it was written by Neil Gaiman. This series imagines an alternate history where the super-heroes were born 300 years earlier – in England during the reign of Queen Elisabeth I. All the books are beautifully drawn (especially the covers), the story is imaginative and beautifully told. Surprisingly, it doesn’t gloss over some of the less politically correct aspects of the day, such as the persecution of Jews by the Catholic church. I’m probably two books away from the end but I’m giving the whole series a big thumbs up.
Well… he’s finally made to the big screen – one of the most politically incorrect superheroes ever created. I don’t think there’s much point explaining Deadpool’s background: you either know him or you don’t.
What? Okay, here’s the short version: a former special forces operative suffering from terminal cancer agrees to undergo an experimental procedure to make it a bit less terminal. It works, after a fashion, granting him healing abilities hijacked from Wolverine and amped to a level where he can regenerate missing body parts.
Now, you’d think that being granted a second chance at life would make him a little more grateful. Unfortunately, the experiment leaves our anti-hero horribly disfigured, so no, there’s not a lot of gratitude, but an awful lot of sour grapes.
Deadpool is one of Marvel Comics’ surprise success stories. He has no moral compass, so it’s a happy accident that he seems to end up fighting on the right side.
And the film itself is brilliant; possibly my favourite comic flick of all time. It’s like National Lampoon decided to make a superhero movie. The plot is simple and workable, and along the way the movie pokes fun at itself and the whole genre with the occasional play to the camera (easy to overdo this sort of thing; Deadpool sails close, but just manages to keep it this side of tedious). The fight sequences are excellently staged and the action scenes are tightly directed and a little gory in places. But this is Deadpool; we weren’t expecting anything less from a man who’ll dismember himself while he’s drunk.
And woven through the mayhem, you’ll actually find a little bit of a love story; just enough to make you root for him anyway.
But best of all, it is very very funny; laugh-out-loud funny in fact. This film has been hyped for months and I’m glad that I wasn’t disappointed. I bought another ticket on my way out, so I’ve got no choice but to give it ten out of ten.
I gave up reading comics about six years ago. I didn’t grow out of them (who grows out of reading comic books?); I just ran out of space to store them all. I’ve got an attic full of old comics (lots of them still in their cellophane) and the bathroom ceiling was starting to creak under the weight. So what could I do?
Well, obviously, get the attic reinforced. But that was just a temporary measure. I couldn’t keep buying these things forever. So around about the same time I started writing seriously, I decided to give up on comics, depriving myself of the oldest form of story-telling in existence.
So, moving forward a few years, and I have the same problem. Lots of books and not enough room to store them all. This time though, there was a solution: the Kindle. Now I could read and keep as many books as I wanted, without taking up an inch of shelf space1. I later moved on to an iPad (a better reading experience for me).
A few weeks ago, I found a couple of apps that would let me buy comics, download them and then read them on any iGadget connected to my account.
‘Sounds fair enough,’ I thought. ‘I’ll try one or two and see how I get on.’
Three weeks and two hundred quid later, I’m having the time of my life! Comics have changed a lot in six years. For a start, they’re not comics anymore apparently; they’re graphic novels: a master stroke in marketing which means that old geeks can tell folk they’re still neck deep in serious literature.
‘What’re you reading at the moment?’
‘The Killing Joke.’
‘Ah, sticking with the classics I see.’
Spider-man is now a multi-millionaire (that won’t last; he’s Marvel’s fall guy), Iron Man looks a lot like Robert Downey Jr (I wonder why), Nick Fury, who used to be white, is now is the spitting image of Samuel L. Jackson (again, I wonder why).
Best of all: the Silver Surfer has discovered slapstick comedy and has a travelling companion (a bit like Doctor Who, but a lot less creepy).
The sentinel of the spaceways now has to contend with soaring the galaxy with someone who has to eat, sleep, and make planetfall for toilet breaks. The surfboard needs a washroom, my friend…
1Actually, I still buy real books: The Odyssey (read it!); American Gods (read it!) and a couple of Booker Prize winners (never finished ’em). I keep them on a shelf near the door so folk can see how clever I am when they walk in.