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The Pop Culture Wing of Hot Corner Harbor

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Comic Book Taxonomy: A Look at the Idea of Tiers of Superheroes

Are there tiers of superheroes? It’s a pretty common theory, and it’s hard to dispute. People regularly refer to the big names as A-listers, while Guardians of the Galaxy was constantly referred to as a bunch of C- or D-listers when describing how risky the project was (which is partly what inspired me to examine this more closely).

Where you tend to get the real discussion, though, is when you try and categorize the non-obvious ones. No one will argue that Batman is a big name, or that Star Lord isn’t. But what about characters like Iron Man and Thor, pre-movies? Is there a way to be a little more hard-and-fast with the rankings?

Well, I decided to try it either way. What follows is my attempt to define a superhero notoriety. I’ll start by looking at it from circa-2000, to make it interesting. The recent boom in comic book movies has made the landscape very different, but once I have my framework laid out, it becomes very easy to re-apply it 2014.

My rankings are very heavily based on presence in media. That may seem a little weird on the surface, to be basing how famous a comic book character is without any reference to the comics themselves. But it makes a lot of sense if you think about it; comics, while popular, are hardly a good way to get a sense of how much a character permeates the public consciousness, given how little of the public consciousness in turn comes from comics.

Friday, August 15, 2014

I Enjoyed Boneshaker; Plus, What It Taught Me About the Zombie Apocalypse

I recently finished Cherie Priest’s novel Boneshaker. This article won’t be a review of it, but I did enjoy it a lot and want to give a quick appraisal in case anyone is interested. The book is essentially three main ideas combined into a single narrative: An American alternate history story (1), which grants the setting a Steampunk (2) version of technology, which in turns causes a zombie outbreak (3). If you’re a fan of any of those three genres, you will probably like it. It’s not particularly groundbreaking in its use of any of those three genres, but it does all of them well. I ticked off two of those boxes, so that was more than enough to sway me.

If you aren’t a fan of those three genres, you might still want to consider giving it a chance. It takes a while to get in to, but once it does, the pace starts rolling right along. The characters aren’t as interesting as others that I’ve read (the two leads are fine, which is really the most important part, but the supporting cast isn’t as fleshed out as in other works), but the setting is more than interesting enough to make up for that lack. It also deserves props for centering around a middle-aged woman rather than the more standard younger man protagonist (her son is also a major character, but he’s still on the younger side of things than is usual). And like I said, if the premise is enough to hook you, it’s worth reading.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy: An Oddity of a Comic Book Movie

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy last weekend (I’ve been a little busy since then), and it might be my favorite movie of the year. There’s still a lot of time left, and I’d need more reflection on the matter to be certain, possibly even another viewing, but I think that gives an idea of how much I liked it.

I had a lot of different thoughts about the movie, and my original article was just going to be those different points just sort of conglomerated under one umbrella post. However, looking over them, I think I noticed a common thread of sorts on the things I wanted to comment on: a lot of Guardians runs counter to the other superhero movies of today, Marvel or otherwise.

One of the first things is just how straightforward everything is. Mind you, there’s a lot going on, a lot of characters, and so on, but everything is pretty much exactly as you would think. There are no hidden motivations, betrayals, badly concealed secrets for the purpose of drama, or anything of the sort. It’s actually a little refreshing, especially in a time when superhero movies and other blockbusters (and heck, even Disney movies) regularly come with surprise twists in their narratives. Think Iron Man 3’s secret mastermind, or Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s political backstabbing, or in less well-executed cases, Amazing Spider-Man 2’s Oscorp that secretly controls everything it isn’t trying to backstab (to keep it to just comic book movies).