My wife often likes to poke fun at me whenever I indulge in my geekier side, regardless of whether it’s related to computers, anime, music, bad ninja movies from the 1980s, etc. And yet, I contend that she has no reason for doing so, as she is often the one who enables such behavior.
Case in point: this Christmas, we opted against getting too many gifts for each other, as we’d already spent a healthy sum on some much-needed home furnishings (and an iPod). Instead, we decided to give each other a few “fun” gifts. So what do you suppose was waiting for me under the Christmas tree? Suffice to say, it wasn’t home improvement gizmos (that’s what I have in-laws for).
The Marvel Encyclopedia
Back in my high school days, when I was a big comic book fan, I was always more of a Marvel guy than a DC guy. Sure, DC had Batman — whose coolness knows no bounds — but their other heroes always seemed, well, kind of fruity when compared to the likes of Spiderman or the X-Men. Or at least that’s how it seemed to my high school sensitivities.
Nowadays, I’m no longer the huge comic book fan that I was once was, and I’ve definitely move closer to a moderate position on the Marvel/DC issue. However, thumbing through the massive Marvel Encylopedia, which has information on essentially every character — superhero or no — that has walked through the Marvel multiverse, is like a straight up shot of nostalgia right to my inner high schooler.
All of the major heroes — Wolverine, Spiderman, the Fantastic Four — are there of course, and I was very pleased to see my favorite Marvel character, the Silver Surfer, get a nice double-page spread. But the real fun is in reading about those ancillary characters that drift through various series, never having one of their own, or who had only very limited series. Then there are the “backdrop” characters such as Galactus or the Celestials, who are major figures that loom in the background of the Marvel multiverse, but who often remain enigmatic. Finally, there are those characters that make you wonder just what manner of narcotics were imbibed in Marvel’s offices, characters such as Marrina, The Rawhide Kid, and the Great Lakes Avengers.
You could probably find almost all of the information — character bios and histories (which, given Marvel’s predilection for parallel dimensions, time travel, and whatnot, are often very convoluted), superpowers, etc. — contained within the Encylopedia’s 350+ pages were you to spend a couple of hours on Wikipedia. However, then you’d miss out on all of the gorgeous artwork and history lessons taken from all of Marvel’s eras. And there’s certainly something to be said for having it all in one gorgeous-looking tome that looks mighty impressive sitting there on the coffee table.
One of my favorite things about going up to Toronto for the city’s annual film festival — aside from all of the films, of course — is getting to stay with my friend Todd. It never fails that he always turns me onto something cool, or that I discover something great while perusing his voluminous library of movies, music, and books. In years past, I’ve discovered Spaced, The League of Gentlemen, and Last Life in the Universe.
This year, Todd introduced me to Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim. Heavily influenced by everything ranging from manga to classic video games to kung fu movies, Scott Pilgrim follows the adventures of the titular character as he tries to win the heart of Ramona Flowers, a delivery girl for Amazon.Ca whom he met when she rollerbladed through a subspace conduit that goes through his brain. Seriously.
Much of Scott Pilgrim’s charm is the way it blends your typical Gen-X romantic melodrama with superpower battles that seem lifted right out of Street Fighter 2. As such, it’s no big deal when Scott begins battling Ramona’s evil ex-boyfriends in order to date her, such as a pirate-dressed succubus summoner and a bassist from a rival band who possesses mystical vegan powers, or when Ramona takes on Scott’s jealous ex-girlfriend in a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-esque duel in the local mall. The extreme switches in tone and mood are handled perfectly, the absurdity of it all mirroring the emotional rollercoaster that Scott and the other characters undergo, or something like that.
All in all, a fun little comic book series that wears pretty much everything on its sleeve, from the characters’ emotions to O’Malley’s love of classic 8-bit gaming. A movie adaptation is currently being worked on, with Edgar Wright (Spaced, Shaun Of The Dead) attached as director. Which, given Wright’s masterful pastiche of pop culture in his previous titles, makes perfect sense.