Tag Archives: graphic novel

Captain America: This is the logic we’re teaching now? really?!

8 Aug

I haven’t seen the film yet, so no spoilers ahead. I know admitting this might render my argument completely invalid, but I highly doubt that seeing as it’s near impossible to hide a shakespearean tragedy underneath a punchy blockbuster. Yes, it happens in the comics, but almost never in films which are hoping to rake it in at the box office by aiming themselves at the widest marketshare possible.

There’s one line in the trailer that caught my attention. It’s an innocent, shy little line that can easily pass unnoticed. But, unfortunately, it’s the basis for pretty much the entire films logic.  I should tell you now that I hesitate to apply the same logic to the comics, because I do love me some Captain A. He’s a legend…I don’t want to think about it too much just yet to be honest, i don’t think I’d like it.

After Steve Rogers asks doctor Abraham Erskine, the doctor who will transform him with the super soldier serum he has created, “Why me?” The good doctor replies:

“Because weak men, know the value of strength…know the value of power”

It’s a tight argument, one I agree with to a point. I don’t agree with the implication of it though, an implication that shines through once you take into account the rest of the setup.

Steve rogers is chosen for the super soldier programme because he has repeatedly applied to join the war effort but been denied because he is physically inadequate. He doesn’t have half the muscle mass the other men have and, in the film, he’s actually ridiculously exaggerated. In the comics he’s just an average guy with a bit of an underdeveloped body but in the film he looks a malnourished child who has to grapple with gravity itself to gather enough air to breathe.

Anyway, you’ve probably seen the scene: Scrawny guy steps into a machine then steps out of the machine a hulk of a man, ready to fight for his country.

Now, my (first) problem is this: All those other guys, the odd million or so who succesfully got into the army, didn’t start off looking like Adonis. (for the sake of argument I’m gonna deny historical accuracy and ignore the fact that most of those who enlisted were nothing more than average joes who played a season or two of highschool football). They all toned themselves up through sweat and hardwork. They put in the hours working on their fitness, and it paid off. They got in by virtue of that work they put in.

But it’s not okay to give them the super soldier serum because they “Won’t know the value of strength”? Oh I’m calling that one. I’m calling that one straight up. They’ve decided to improve themselves, probably gone through a hell of a lot of heartbreak for it, and they won’t know the value of strength just because…well, damn, I dunno: just, because! Because they said so! Because!!!1!

But the kicker, and the thing that has me really worried for the state of the world, is that the implication is this:

You can bestow great power and strength on a weak but intelligent, morally strong, courageous, humble, respectful, honourable and benevolent person, but you can not bestow these virtues on a person who’s already strong and powerful.

This is the lesson we’re teaching people: If you’re strong, muscular, or if you can be described in any way near the label ‘jock’, you’re finished, we can’t teach you anything. You just keep on keeping on. No no, it’s okay, don’t worry about it. You’ve got great power and strength, but don’t you worry your little head about the essential virtues which, throughout history, have been used to keep the powerful in check and the warrior class aligned on the side of justice and righteousness. We threw those out the window with the 80’s, so just chill: you’re all good.

I’ve been scratching myself to think of a tribe of warriors in Western history that could illustrate my point properly, but none quite come up to scratch. The spartans, although they’ve gotten a good reputation in the past few years, were a crazy bunch. Sure, they pushed themselves to the pinnacle of the art of war, but they denied themselves a lot of virtues along the way that makes a good warrior. The greeks, although not in the same class as the spartans, were much the same.

The vikings, although they had a great reputation for courage and bravery, were a little bit too keen on rape and pillage to be held up as perfect examples of the warrior pinnacle. Native americans were pretty close I think, but I don’t know enough to say definitively.

No, for a good example of what a warrior should be we have to look East. The samurai in japan and the warrior class (shaolin monks, if you must…but there was a lot more to chinese warfar than the monks) in China lived by a strictly defined set of virtues and principles that kept them in check throughout their life.

Granted that didn’t stop them from getting into fights and wars the same as anyone else, but my point is that when being trained in martial arts and warfare, they weren’t simply taught how to fight, maim and kill. They were taught how to live humbly, with honour, courage, benevolence and a host of other virtues drilled into them. No matter who you were or what size you were, you were taught the same as everyone else. If you were  a weak little shrimp you were taught how to fight and how to live a virtuous life. If you were a seven foot powerhouse, you were taught how to fight and how to live a virtuous life. There was no distinction, or rather -ignorant presumption, made on someone. If they wanted to learn, they would learn both sides of the coin, not just the one which they already knew.

Sure, weak men know the value of strength and power, but who’s to say we can’t teach strong men the same?! Why can a weak man be given incredible power and strength, but a strong man not be given incredible humility and perspective?…it saddens me to know that this corrosive mentality running through society is, and will be, met with a simple “hey, that’s just the way it is” mentality.

Anyway; if your interest has been sparked by the idea of a complete person then I suggest you read ‘hagakure’ or the ‘Tao te ching’. Both were read furiously by ancient warriors in the East to help them gain a complete understanding of themselves, the world and how best to live in it.

(oh, and I’d turn this one up…those first few bars are just beautiful;)

Green lantern and complex shapes; willpower is a muscle

20 Jun

Well then, I saw the Green Lantern movie. No, this isn’t going to be a review (there’s enough of those out there), but there was one thing about the movie, and premise, that got me thinking. So, although there might be some things about the movie in this post (*Cough* Kilowogs voice was ridiculously wrong *C-Cough*) I’ll only be using it to relate to my point.

The basic premise, if you don’t know it, is that the Green Lanterns get their power and strength from willpower. Simple enough. The more willpower a Lantern has, the better equipped they are to become a good one. The ring holds the power, and the reserve of energy, but it’s the wearers willpower that really makes the difference and makes it possible for the energy to be used (just in case you saw the film, heard an innocent enough line and were thinking “If the energy is a collection of all the willpower in the universe, why doesn’t it just give the wearer incredible power regardless of their character?! I CALL SHENANIGANS!!”).

Not to ruin the film too much for you, but there’s a training scene where the hero of the piece gets put through his paces…for a minute or two. Now, if you’ll allow me tostep off course for a minute, I’d just like to say that this was incredible disappointing. If you’re a fan of the comics you’ll know that Kilowog, the trainer of Green Lanterns, has a habit of putting new recruits through their paces like dogs of war.

In the film, Kilowog tussles with Hal for a minute or two,  steps aside for someone else to have a go then drifts off on a cloud to presumably look for the rabbit farm he was told the guardians placed on OA especially for him, like some sort of monstrously disciplined Lenny from ‘of Mice and men’.

But anyway; as disapointing as that scene was, it was a throaway scene just afterwards that got my attention. Hals guide to the world of green genes

“…and here comes your host tonight:TOMAR RE, ladies and gentlemen, tomar re!”  (…sorry, that music just totally goes with him as an intergalactic game show host…)

is showing him how to make shapes with the ring. Standing there looking like a cross between a chicken and a fish (…which, is…actually pretty well done and accurate to the comics as far as I know. I wasn’t trying to be insulting with that description), he’s casually fooling around with a construct ripped from the mind of M.C. Escher himself then twisted by a thousand car wrecks.

Fair enough; this guy has the experience. He can conjur up all manner of shapes and constructions because he’s been at the job for years (and, importantly, he’s got the imagination…that’s a Green Lantern thing I’m not even going to get into), spending countless hours and missions honing his willpower into a finely tuned weapon.

Astonishingly though, he then pushes the hero to do the same. (…Say whatnow?!) He tells Hal jordan to create the exact same shape that he had been just messing around with and, believe it or not, he does it with a completely straight face; like it’s nothing in the world. Does he do it?…like fuck he does. This is my main disappointment with the training sequence (And I do love me a good training sequence); this point is completely passed over. It’s like “Oh, hey; you got a ring?! good times…good times. Now do this. and this. Why can’t you do it?! do it I said!!! FAILURE! you’re a FAILURE! *tsh GOSH this will never work out for you…” *

*(you could argue that Hal has enough willpower already, seeing as he flies military aircraft using the power of steelballs, and should therefore be able to do anything he wants with the ring; but his willpower is only in one, very specific, area…Someone who has the willpower to run ten miles might not have the willpower to stand still for two hours.)

My long winded point about all this, is that Willpower is a muscle. It needs to be exercised, strenghtened and refined. Start with basic shapes, get them down as tight as possible, then you can move onto the three dimensional spiral tornadoes gyrating in alternate directions based on the proximity to and direction of beautiful women.

If you’ve had experience balancing out two opposing things with willpower, you’ll know what I’m talking about. A few years ago I was trying to start a healthy new activity in my life while trying to give something bad up at the same time. It didn’t work out so well. There were times where I would get super pumped about the activity, so much so that I’d push it hard, and then come home only to fall straight back into the bad habit I was trying to drop.

The reason? I had used a hefty chunk of my willpower in pushing myself to do something positive. So much so, that when I returned home tired but happy with myself, I had no willpower left to keep the wolves from the door.

Trying to go the full whack from the start set me back a lot. Time after time I would put too much willpower into either starting the good or ending the bad, and I’d end up tipping the balancing scales too far one way or the other. It took me a long time to be comfortable enough with myself to say “Hold on, just hold on a minute. Keep some in reserve for later; you know you’re gonna need it”.

I’d love to tell you to go hell for leather in everything you do, I really would. But let’s be honest here; in the real world there’s a million and one things vying for your attention. If you focus on using all your willpower on one thing and one thing only, you’re gonna be left running on empty when something else comes around. Start with the basic shapes; refine them, exercise them and strengthen them, but keep some in reserve for when you need it. After that, when you’ve got a good feeling you’re ready; start dishing out the willpower in bigger doses in different directions.