Shakespearing #11: Richard II

Shakespearing #11 by David Foley

Richard II11 Richard II

I tried, as I re-read Richard II, to uncover why the play so fascinated me as a teenager. Some of the first Shakespearean speeches I memorized were from Richard II. With a couple of drinks in me, I can still give a quite moving rendition of the “sad stories of the deaths of kings” speech, a speech that might hint at why a certain kind of moony adolescent would find Richard compelling: it shows Richard’s gift for reframing his sorrows as image, and in the process reimagining himself. Don’t we spend our teenage years trying to do that? The fact that the overriding tone in which Richard does so is self-pity makes him only the more appealing to the adolescent mind.

It’s not his only tone, of course, or the only image. More than any other Shakespearean king, Richard insists on the image of kingship. His body is invested with royalty. He upbraids John of Gaunt for “[making] pale our cheek, chasing the royal blood / With fury from his native residence,” and later, on returning to England, he says, “[G]reet I thee, my earth, / And do thee favors with my royal hands.”

He’s not alone in finding kingship in his physique. “Yet looks he like a king!” cries York. “Behold his eye,/As bright as is the eagle’s, lightens forth / Controlling majesty.” (The historical Richard was supposed to be quite beautiful and six feet tall.) The fact that this image is just that, an image, is Richard’s tragedy and Shakespeare’s subversive twist. The play feels proto-democratic, the ideal of divinely invested kingship challenged by Bullingbrook’s “fair discourse” with the people.

Perhaps the other reason Richard affected me so much when I was young was that he’s, well, kinda gay. It’s not that he’s a gay character, although Bullingbrook makes an ambiguous accusation against Richard’s favorites: “You have … [m]ade a divorce betwixt your queen and him, / Broke the possession of a royal bed.” It’s that the high polish of his self-presentation calls to mind Susan Sontag’s definition of camp. “All Camp objects, and persons, contain a large element of artifice,” says Sontag, and perhaps more to the point, “Camp…is one way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon.” Watch Richard transform himself into an aesthetic phenomenon in his “almsman’s” speech:

I’ll give my jewels for a set of beads,

My gorgeous palace for a hermitage,

My gay apparel for an almsman’s gown,

My figur’d goblets for a dish of wood,

My scepter for a palmer’s walking staff,

My subjects for a pair of carved saints,

And my large kingdom for a little grave,

A little little grave, an obscure grave—

His parting from his Queen (who’s never given a name) in Act V, Scene i, is less heart-rending than performative, as if he were Wilde on his way to Reading Gaol. It’s no accident that one of his most famous speeches is to a mirror, a reading of himself as image.

We might grow tired of his artifice if it weren’t so deeply inlaid in earth and time, the two recurring images of the play. Richard’s haunting line before his death, “I wasted time and now doth time waste me,” is bookended in Act I by these words of John of Gaunt: “Thou canst help time to furrow me with age/But stop no wrinkle in his pilgrimage.” Soon Gaunt, of course, will be in his “little little grave,” “that small model of the barren earth/Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.”

And isn’t that one of the great fears of adolescence: that time will be done with us before we’re done with time?

_______

 

David Foley

David Foley is a playwright and fiction writer living in Brooklyn. His plays include Cressida Among the Greeks, Paradise, Nance O’Neil, The Murders at ArgosA Hole in the Fence, and Sad Hotel, among others. His novel The Traveler’s Companion is available on Amazon. He teaches at New York University.

 

Areas of Fog #28: The Gatsby House

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Areas of Fog #28 by Will Dowd

The Gatsby House 

Personally I don’t understand the confusion. The end of summer falls clearly and cleanly on the folded crease between August 31 and September 1.

That’s why there are so many summer novels: the season is a built-in three-act play.

No one understood this better than F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose Great Gatsby climaxes on the last sweltering afternoon in August. The next day, the neighborhood kids are sneaking through Nick Carraway’s backyard to get an illicit glimpse of Gatsby floating face down in his pool like a dead leaf.

F Scott

When I was fourteen, and under the spell of Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, I nicknamed a mansion in my neighborhood—the mansion in my neighborhood—the Gatsby house. I would fly past it on my bike and wonder when my name would be on the deed. When I was thirty? Forty?

Gatsby House

One summer afternoon, my friends and I snuck into the backyard, dove in the cerulean pool, and then sunk all the poolside furniture. The owner—an old man in owl glasses—appeared and said, with his arms spread wide, “You could have just asked.”

Sometimes, when I think of all the high school term papers written on The Great Gatsby, those endless tracts purporting to solve the riddle of the novel, to finally deduce what that green light is really about, I imagine Fitzgerald standing with his arms out, saying, “You could have just asked.”

I must have read the novel three or four times before I noticed the naked women swimming in the irises of the floating face on the front cover.

great gatsby

The novel has a reflective quality. It changes as you change.

When I read Gatsby this summer, I saw the novel as a seasonal dialectic. On one side, you have Gatsby, whose name sounds like a short-lived summer fly; on the other side, you have Nick, who can’t shake the long winters of his Middle West youth. “I am part of that,” he says, speaking of the street lamps and the sleigh bells and the shadows of holly wreaths.

Not long ago, I found out that my great-grandmother, Anne Morrissey, lived for years in my Gatsby house. She was a companion and cook and letter writer for the wealthy widow who lived there alone, and perhaps, given the circumstances, she might have found the house willed to her. These things do happen.

But one night, she heard someone trying to break in (probably some local kids) and left the next day.

Anne Morrissey

I spent all those years of my childhood, pedaling and pining for a brick mansion, not understanding that my chance had already come and gone.

“His dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it,” Nick says of Gatsby. “He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city…”

I don’t know what The Great Gatsby is really about. All I know is that the summer is over and I haven’t been to any good parties.

 _______

Will Dowd Summer

Will Dowd (episode 91episode 104) is a freelance writer based outside Boston. He received an MFA from New York University and an MS from MIT. His writing has appeared in Barrow Street, Post Road, Skeptic Magazine, and NPR.org.

 

Episode 115: Mailbag 6 (The Sweet Cheat Gone)

Episode 115 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

On this week’s show, I answer some mail with my friend, David James Poissant,

David James Poissant
Plus Clint Peters writes about how reading Montaigne changed his life.

Clint Peters

NOTES

Check out David James Poissant’s wonderful story collection, The Heaven of Animals.

The Heaven of Animals

According to NPR, Robert Hass has won the Wallace Stevens prize.

According to The Guardian, Doris Lessing willed 3,000 books to a library in Harare, Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, Florida Polytechnic is opening with a library that has zero print books (Guardian).

Also according to The Guardian, Martin Amis’s controversial new book, Zone of Interest, is having some publishing difficulties.

I incorrectly called Bullets and Burgers a shooting range, when according to The Times, Burgers and Bullets is the name of the tour guide service that brings people to a shooting range about 25 miles outside of Vegas, in Arizona, where a nine year-old girl accidentally shot her shooting instructor with an Uzi after he set the gun to repeater action.


Episode 115 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #54: The King of Kong

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The King of Kong or A Fistful of Quarters

(Ape of the Week: Donkey Kong)

The King of Kong

I hate it when movies give me two titles to choose from. I hate that kind of nonsense! Just pick one! I know. I know. The King of Kong or A Fistful of Quarters is a documentary, so I should forgive such excesses. In fact, this is the first documentary to be given any attention here at The Museum of Schlock. This is also the final movie of Ape Month. Yay!

I can’t say I was a huge Donkey Kong player when I was a child. I owned a handful of games for our Atari 800 computer back when I was a child: Mountain KingDig DugPitfallDeluxe Invaders (Space Invaders Deluxe), and Demon Attack.

Atari 800

Those games were hard! I never made it to the top of the mountain with my crown in Mountain King because of those stupid bats. I hated those stupid bats! And then there was that scary spider that lived in the pit below the mountain. Why was she scary? Because she ate you alive!

Anyway, what I didn’t know at the time was that there was this whole slew of older boys that were part of what was known as “Competitive Gaming.” Chief among these was Billy Mitchell, Pac-Man champion of the world and “Gamer of the Century.” According to him, he was able to transfer the skills he learned from competitive gaming into other areas of his life. For instance, he owns Rickey’s World Famous Restaurant chain and produces a brand of hot sauces under the same name.

Kong juice

Hey, I’m impressed. Billy Mitchell is a renaissance man, and I’m not just saying that because he terrifies me. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had a death ray hidden somewhere in house. If Billy Mitchell makes a play for world domination, we’re in trouble. For now, we can rest easy knowing that he’s satisfied enough to own a world-class mullet, to be the Pac-Man Champion of the World, and also to be the Donkey Kong Champion of the World. Oh wait.

Enter the dragon. I mean, enter Steve Dweebie–I mean, Steve Wiebe, an all-around good guy that we can’t help but root for! I mean he’s a high school teacher, loving husband and father, and the Donkey Junior World Record holder.

King of Kong detail

And then a video circulates of Steve Wiebe beating the Donkey Kong high score. Guess who used to be record holder for Donkey Kong? Were you reading the previous paragraph?

Billy Mitchell cries foul because Steve Wiebe got a replacement Donkey Kong board from Roy Shidlt. Shidlt is a self-proclaimed Missile Command champion whose score had been discredited by Billy Mitchell. Who’s telling the truth? I don’t care–I mean, who knows? Will Steve Wiebe be able to defend his honor at a supervised play session at Funspot Arcade in Laconia, New Hampshire? Is there anything more boring than watching someone else playing a video game? You’ll have to watch the documentary to find out.

By the way, below is a Youtube video for Mountain King from YouTuber Tork110. This should give you a glimpse into my painful childhood.

Five Things I Learned From The King of Kong or A Fistful of Quarters

  1. Arkanoid belongs in every arcade for the sound alone.
  2. Wear a custom glove when playing with a trackball.
  3. Funspot does look like a fun spot.
  4. It’s okay to cry if you lose to Billy Mitchell.
  5. This is the first movie I’ve ever watched where I found myself screaming Neeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrddddddddddd at the screen at every opportunity.

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Photo by Leslie Salas

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida.

Heroes Never Rust #56: Showing the Details and More Details and More Details

Heroes Never Rust #56 by Sean Ironman

Showing the Details and More Details and More Details

Billy Butcher has been telling Hughie for three issues that superheroes are dicks. We’ve gotten a little bit of a taste for that a couple of times. For example, in issue one, Hughie’s girlfriend was killed when a superhero threw a villain into a brick wall, and in issue three, Homelander forced Annie to perform oral sex in order to join the Seven. But there’s a problem with these instances—while they show that superheroes aren’t the nicest of people, readers still don’t have a good idea of the daily life of a superhero. These instances, while awful, may just include those two superheroes. Also, those instances may just be bad moments in time for otherwise good people. Well, maybe not good people, but people not worthy of the hell Billy Butcher plans on raining down on them. It’s important that readers understand how bad the superheroes are so that when Butcher, Hughie, and the rest of the Boys get to work, readers will understand their methods.

Welcome to issue four of The Boys.

boys4cover

The first target of the Boys is a superhero group of hoodlums (and yes, I consider them hoodlums) called Teenage Kix. There are eight members (Big Game, Shout Out, Popclaw, Whack Job, Gunpowder, Jetstreak, Dogknott, and Blarney Cock) and they are all douchebags. The group is in a three-story whorehouse. They perform a sex act in one room, yell “Change!,” and then switch rooms and partners. According to Butcher, it’s the only whorehouse that will still have them as customers. The women need to do drugs in order to keep up with the superheroes, who by the way are using the women until they bleed and are dead inside.

Now, in many mediums, writers are told to show and not tell. I don’t really believe fully in that 100% of the time—I think it’s all right if you have a character with a strong voice to do a bit of telling—but let’s go with it. One thing that comics can do that other mediums can’t is the amount of detail a reader could be given at once. In prose, readers are given one word at a time. Words add up to sentences, which add up to paragraphs and pages. A lot can be done in prose (obviously), but the reader can only really be given one thing at a time. In film, the audience is not in control of how fast he or she is moving through the story. The film begins to play, and eventually it ends. Filmmakers must understand how much the audience can understand in a given time period. In comics, readers control how quickly they move through the story and comic creators can layer as much or as little detail as they want in a panel. Readers can take the time to study a panel, or they can read the dialogue and move on.

boys4

In the opening of issue four, Hughie watches from across the street as Teenage Kix runs through the whorehouse. He can see through all nine windows, and readers can too. Also, in a short amount of space, readers can be given a whole lot of specific details. Take the single panel featuring Teenage Kix member Gunpowder. He lies on his stomach on a bed, hands tied to the headboard. His helmet is one, but his pants are around his ankles. His back is covered in cuts as a woman whips him. Okay, enough detail to understand his depravity, but then Robertson and Ennis take it a step further. The woman whipping him is topless and smoking a cigarette. She’s not even looking at Gunpowder. In fact, her eyes give away that she’s either bored or dead inside. Then, there’s a second woman off to the side near Gunpowder’s ankles with gloves on, but otherwise naked. She’s pouring lube on a pistol. This panel is one of five on a page. It’s a lot of detail packed into a small area.

Later in the issue, the Seven meet in their conference room. In one panel, once again, Robertson and Ennis fit in a lot of detail. Homelander stands at the head and calls the meeting to order. He’s professional, ready to go. A man in a suit sits off to the side behind him with a drink. The man is calm but attentive. Readers can understand he’s the real power behind this group. Queen Maeve (basically Wonder Woman) smokes and seems to be looking down, not paying any attention to Homelander. Jack From Jupiter (Martian Manhunter) has his arms crossed and looks annoyed. The Deep (Aquaman) has his fist on the table and is the only member turned toward Homelander. He’s ready to go. Annie looks away and seems absent. A-Train, one member who also forced Annie into oral sex, looks away from Homelander and at Annie, and he smiles with a creepy grin. Readers are given an understanding of each character quickly.

boys4PearlHarbor

Some comic artists barely draw a background. But I believe everything in the panel is important. Are their times when the background is simplified to focus on an individual character(s)? Of course! But, by fitting more detail in a panel, a comic book can cover more ground in terms of world building, characterization, and even just offering some nice things to someone re-reading a comic. For example, I just noticed two members of the Teenage Kix go to a movie premiere and in the background is a sign for Pearl Harbor 2. Knowing the movie they are going to see is a sequel to Pearl Harbor makes me laugh. So, in the end, use the room you have on a comic book page to show as much of the world as you can.

_______

Sean Ironman

Sean Ironman (Episode 102earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read in The Writer’s ChronicleRedivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.

In Boozo Veritas # 56: The Endless Summer

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In Boozo Veritas # 56 by Teege Braune

The Endless Summer

Shakespeare

“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” –Sonnet 18

Not even the day after Christmas was as disappointing as the last day of summer vacation. It doesn’t matter on what day the Autumnal Equinox falls, all kids know that summertime is over the day the new school year begins. Never mind that much of my summer was filled with banal days playing the same video game over and over again until I was sick of it, and putting off cutting the grass until my mom threatened to ground me if it wasn’t done before sunset. As summertime was ending those moments seemed like the exception and all I remembered were the nights sitting around a campfire in the mountains, swimming in a neighbor’s pool, going to barbecues, and staying up with my friends as late as we possibly could eating pizza and candy until we simply fell over from exhaustion. It didn’t matter if the summer was often boring because boredom represented freedom, the lazy freedom to do nothing if one so chose, and when that boredom was punctuated by something more fun, it was usually so exciting one could barely stand it.

My birthday on August eighteenth was the perfect excuse for one final hurrah with my buddies before we were sucked back into the tedious grind of the school year. Then in junior high school my public school district changed the schedule so that summer ended a week earlier and the first day of school suddenly coincided with the anniversary of the day I was born. Instead of a party my family celebrated both my birthday and the last day of summer vacation by going out to dinner, getting ice cream, and then heading off to bed early so that we could wake up at the crack of dawn for school. I would spend the night of my actual birthday completing the year’s first batch of homework assignments. Usually my friends, distracted by the newness of the school year, simply forgot that it was my birthday at all.

Long before my life resembled anything that could rightly be called adulthood, graduating high school and going to college killed the summer altogether. As the semester ended I would eagerly look forward to a long break from the relentless professors and their overwhelming immensity of assignments, from sharing a cramped living space with a guy I considered a friend, but whose major from what I could gather, was smoking pot and showering as little as possible. I, in turn, showered as little as possible to battle off his body odor with my own.

As it turned out, neither one of us were having much success dating.

Summertime seemed a nice escape from all that until it actually arrived and I once again remembered that I could no longer waste those precious months bumming around doing as little as possible. I was fortunate to have a reasonably well paying summer job waiting for me back in my hometown. Unfortunately, this job was working as a maintenance assistant and painter for the public school system. In a way my worst nightmares had come true; I was a high school graduate spending the daylight hours of every week day inside the depressing walls of my high school.

I came to Florida from Indiana in early adulthood in search of some kind of endless summer. My participation in the annual school year cycle had long since ended. I had already worked a series of jobs, some more satisfying than others, none as awful as the one I had endured in college, and had no delusions that my time down south would be some kind of life of ease devoid of labor, away from the rat race. Nevertheless, Florida seemed like a place where one could decompress, where people could feel like they were on vacation on a random Saturday. I had never lived less than ten hours from a beach, and the idea of driving to the coast on any given weekend thrilled me. The truth is, I had no idea just how cold it could get here at night in the wintertime, and furthermore, I thought, what the fuck is happening the first time it was seventy-five degrees on Halloween and eighty degrees on Christmas.

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Teege BeachTeege Braune (episode 72episode 75episode 77episode 90episode 102) is a writer of literary fiction, horror, essays, and poetry. Recently he has discovered the joys of drinking responsibly. He may or may not be a werewolf.

Episode 114: Maya Sloan!

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Episode 114 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

On this week’s show, I talk to fiction writer and ghost writer extraordinaire, Maya Sloan.

Maya SloanTEXTS DISCUSSED

Rich Kids of Instagram

High Before Homeroom

 NOTES

Learn more about the Kerouac House here.


Episode 114 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

Shakespearing #10: Love’s Labour’s Lost

Shakespearing #10 by David Foley

Love’s Labor’s Lost

09 Loves Labor

I’ve now hacked my way through Love’s Labor’s Lost. This is more than I accomplished when I first tried to read the play a few years back. Then I don’t think I got much past Act II.

The Riverside introduction calls Love’s Labor “the most relentlessly Elizabethan of all Shakespeare’s plays,” and that might be some comfort. Maybe it’s an Elizabethan thing; you had to be there. Perhaps it’s loved even today by Elizabethan scholars. When they’re in their cups, they roar with laughter reading each other the punning dialogue in Act IV, scene ii, which depends on knowing the Elizabethan terms for a deer in each year of its growth. (A deer in its second year was called a “pricket,” if that gives you some idea.)

The title page of the First Quarto says the play “was presented before her Highnes this last Christmas,” which may explain why the play feels less a play than a masque, a courtly entertainment. This effect is intensified by its formal intricacy. Most of it is rhymed, and the rhyme schemes vary, as do the meters and line lengths. And there’s all that sophisticated punning. For all I know, these puns coruscated with Stoppardian wit when they were written, but now all the Riverside notes in the world can’t make them funny. And their very elaborateness, their insistence that we stop and attend to their layered implications, adds to the static quality of the play. You get the feeling that Shakespeare is trying too hard.

When a brilliant mind tries hard, the effects are impressive. But are they Shakespeare? What relation do they bear to what makes Shakespeare uniquely Shakespeare? In an intriguing way, Love’s Labor is an instance of form following content. The play is about the sterility of an academic approach to life, to love, and even to art. There’s always been a sense that Shakespeare, a country lad without a university education, was condescended to by his more educated fellow playwrights. Here he’s showing them he can beat them at their own game and (perhaps unintentionally) demonstrating the limits of the game.

In this reading, Shakespeare is Berowne, who seems to want out not just of the King’s contract but of the play itself. His unruly speeches keep threatening to derail the play’s intricately orchestrated dance. Rhyme disappears when, in Act IV, scene iii, he urges the others to break their vow:

But love, first learned in a lady’s eyes,

Lives not alone immured in the brain,

But with the motion of all elements,

Courses as swift as thought in every power[.]

Motion, not stasis, is Shakespeare’s truest mode.

In the end, after all the puns have been punned and the rhymes rhymed, the play takes a turn for the mysterious and the beautiful. The Princess’s father dies, and we enter the world of human cost. The women set conditions for the men that are, in genre, chivalric tests, but in language the language of the difficult world, of “frosts and fasts, hard lodging and thin weeds.” Even Berowne is reminded that his “shallow laughing” will not help him when he “visit[s] the speechless sick.”

The song that ends the play continues this opposition of form to content. In form a pastoral, it snaps with a country lad’s sense of the actual: the “milk comes frozen home in pail,” “coughing drowns the parson’s saw,” and “Marian’s nose looks red and raw.”

It’s the great paradox of Shakespeare. Possessing an ear preternaturally attuned to the form and play of language, he was yet our greatest poet of the real.


 

 

David Foley

David Foley is a playwright and fiction writer living in Brooklyn. His plays include Cressida Among the Greeks, Paradise, Nance O’Neil, The Murders at ArgosA Hole in the Fence, and Sad Hotel, among others. His novel The Traveler’s Companion is available on Amazon. He teaches at New York University.

 

The Curator of Schlock #53: King Kong

The Curator of Schlock #53 by Jeff Shuster

King Kong

(Ape of the Week: King Kong)

King Kong

 Don’t get too excited. This isn’t the 1933 King Kong, but the 1976 remake. Oh yes. Dino De Laurentis got his mitts on King Kong way before Peter Jackson. For some reason, I had been blissfully ignorant of this motion picture growing up, only having seen the 1933 classic. However, when your Curator of Schlock is hunting for ape movies, he may sometimes venture to Netflix and try his luck.

The movie poster for King Kong advertises that the remake is “The most exciting original motion picture of all time.” It’s already been established that this movie is a remake so how original can it be? Well, instead of a filmmaker forming a dangerous expedition to make a movie, we have an oil executive named Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin) who believes that there’s a long lost island in the Indian Ocean that has an ocean of oil underneath it. Joining him on this journey is stowaway Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges), a college professor type and simian studier who believes the increased co2 emissions from the island come from a strange animal that was written about by old explorers before the Vatican put the kibosh on that kind of thought. 

King Kong 4

So is the movie exciting? There’s a lot of facial hair in this motion picture, but I consider it more disturbing than exciting. Charles Grodin’s mustache is okay, but Jeff Bridges beard is a bit of rat’s nest. Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were rodents living in that thing. (This was ages before he was The Dude.) Jessica Lange shows up in a life raft so I would say that’s pretty exciting. Lang plays an actress named Dwan, whose life was saved when she refused to watch Deep Throat with the director of a film she was auditioning for. I guess the yacht she was on blew up, but since she was on deck instead of below watching that dirty movie, she managed to get into one of the life rafts just in time. Yeah, the story is suspect, but the movie doesn’t give us any other explanation.

They make it to the lost island where Wilson mounts an expedition for the hidden oil. What they find instead are a bunch of restless natives who worship some god named Kong and when they take one look at Dwan, they know they have the perfect sacrifice. They manage to kidnap her off of Wilson’s oil tanker, tie her up in front of the big wooden doors, and wouldn’t you know it, Kong is a gigantic gorilla! You know, this isn’t sounding so original after all.

I guess I should talk a bit about the special effects. This is where my inner snob would say nothing beats stop motion animation. Still, the effects in this King Kong are okay. Granted King Kong looks a bit like a guy jumping around in a gorilla suit half of the time.

 
King Kong 5

The other half he looks like an audio-animatronic from a theme park ride. Many critics have labeled this remake as a prime example of schlock. I suppose the scene where Kong blow-dries Dwan’s hair with his breath doesn’t do much in the movie’s defense.

King Kong 2

Is this the most exciting original motion picture of all time? I’m sure someone thinks so.

Five Things I Learned from King Kong

  1. Movie posters lie.

  2. Charles Grodin is unrecognizable with a mustache.

  3. Jessica Lange proves that glamour was alive and well in the 1970s.

  4. Giant snakes are scarier than giant gorillas.

  5. Giant gorillas don’t make useful oil company mascots.

 
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Photo by Leslie Salas.Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida.
 

Heroes Never Rust #55: A Nemesis and a Newbie

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Heroes Never Rust #55 by Sean Ironman

A Nemesis and a Newbie

There is no one right way to tell a story, but there are ways that work and ways that don’t work. Two ways that work in comics (and in other storytelling mediums) are on display in issue three of The Boys. Billy Butcher has assembled his team. Wee Hughie has come to New York to see what Butcher’s been talking about. Now the fun can start. The inherent problem (or a possible problem) with the series could have been Butcher and his team just going from superhero to superhero and making them pay. Locations could change. Powers could change. But after a little while, the series could be tedious. An overarching villain must be introduced. Someone, or some organization, must be out there for Butcher’s team to work up to.

Untitled 1

In The Boys, the “good” guys are Butcher’s team—a group of violent, homicidal psychopaths (at least a few of them). But, even with their penchant for violence, they believe in what they do. Superheroes, many of them, are dicks and think they can get away with more than they should. The Boys put superheroes in their place. They fight, and kill, for a good reason. These are the good guys. In comics, the main villain is the opposite of the main hero. The villain and the hero are two sides of the same coin. Mr. Fantastic expands his body—Dr. Doom has confined his behind a mask. Batman is a madman who’s reserved and stoic—Joker is a madman who’s wild and out there. Captain America is a man made perfect from science—Red Skull is a man turned grotesque from science. Here, Billy Butcher, dressed in black and ready to fight and fuck, is the team leader. His arch nemesis needs to be a leader of a team and has opposite features.

Enter The Homelander, leader of The Seven (a riff on the Justice League).

The Homelander is basically Superman. While he’s not a Kryptonian, he has the powers of Superman and serves the same role. Instead of having black hair and dressing in black, like Butcher, Homelander wears red, white, and blue. He has a cape and blonde hair. If he wasn’t such an asshole, he’d be just like Superman.

The issue begins with Homelander showing a new member of the Seven, Annie January aka Starlight, around headquarters. For three pages, Homelander is sweet, kind, and sensitive. He asks Annie about her old superhero team and compliments her abilities. He has her sit down at their conference table and says, “There’s just one final test for you to pass, and I know you’re going to excel at that, too.”

Then, he drops his pants and says, “Suck it!”

I told you he was an asshole.

Superheroes like Homelander are why I enjoy this series. Homelander isn’t out to conquer the world. I wouldn’t say he’s an evil person, at least from what’s been revealed so far in the series (although I hold back on information given to the reader later on). I like that the superheroes are just people who have been given popularity and power. I could see a big movie or music executive doing what Homelander does here. If you want the job, you gotta help him out.

Anyway, back to him being Butcher’s nemesis. Comic readers know he’s Butcher’s enemy number one because he’s the antithesis of Butcher. That’s the rule. Also, on a smaller note, the Seven is not the enemy here. The Boys are going to take on a different superhero team first, which helps make the Seven, and Homelander, be the big bad.

Another storytelling technique in this issue is that of the newbie. Sometimes exposition is necessary. I know it gets a bad rap, but readers do need to know what’s going on. One way to work in exposition and explain situations to readers is to introduce a new character. In this issue, we get Annie as the newbie for the Seven and Hughie as the newbie for the Boys. Homelander is able to explain things to Annie that he wouldn’t normally explain to the other members, and Butcher can explain things to Hughie that he wouldn’t normally explain to the rest of the Boys.

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But, that’s not the only thing Ennis and Robertson get from introducing new members to the team. A mystery element is added. Because Hughie and Annie don’t know everything about their respective teams, characters can speak about events and people and the readers can be left a little bit in the dark. As long as readers understand what’s going on currently, they can be teased about other events. Readers can at once be firmly placed in a situation and be left in the dark. By doing both, readers don’t feel confused and, hopefully, they want to continue reading to find out about the events and people they are being teased about. The Lamplighter is mentioned by Homelander, but readers don’t know anything about that character, other than that the Lamplighter was a member of the Seven. Butcher mentions a person named Monkey, or at least that’s what he calls this person, but readers haven’t been introduced to that character yet.

Later in the series, things change up a bit, but it’s important to get readers settled quickly in a story. Once a reader understands the world and how the story operates, the story can be screwed with. Sides could change. Characters could turn out to be somewhat different than readers thought. But, first, readers have to be given something to hold onto. Here, we’re given fresh-faced newbies and dickish superheroes who seem somewhat familiar.

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Sean Ironman

Sean Ironman (Episode 102earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read inThe Writer’s ChronicleRedivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.

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