Last month I asked my friends to write about books they loved (you can read all the essays here). This month, I invited them to write about their favorite graphic novels, and they selected some excellent titles. I hope you enjoy them! (Read all the Great Graphic Novel essays here.) -- Mark
West Coast Avengers, by Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom
TIME magazine chose to put the money quote from Richard Schickel's review of Raiders Of The Lost Ark right on the cover:
"A MOVIE MOVIE!"
Was there any need to say more? It's a perfect review, in three simple words. "Raiders" broke absolutely no new ground whatsoever. It was old-fashioned at its core. But it was engineered to hit every button that gives us pleasure as moviegoers. Here is a movie that reminds us of why we love movies.
West Coast Avengers -- the original 1984 four-issue limited series and the first 42 or so issues of the monthly that followed -- was "A COMIC BOOK COMIC BOOK!" And that's why it's one of my favorite series ever. It anticipated Marvel's current vogue for spinning off a popular logo into multiple franchises. The Whackos were formed when the New York team's leader decided to create a Los Angeles-based team, designated to handle "all threats west of the Mississippi."
It turned out that Earth and the Universe were both located somewhere of Indianapolis. It seemed as though every threat that affected the whole planet and every battle that involved warring alien factions was handled by the original East Coast team in their own book. The West Coast Avengers tended to tackle more manageable, down-to-earth problems. Things like an enormous walking, talking totem pole, and an organized crime syndicate whose leaders dress in bulky costumes representing the signs of the zodiac.
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Last week, Boing Boing presented a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. We are extending the series for several additional days. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series. -- Mark
[Video Link]To date, the most mind-blowing film I've ever seen was 1980's The Stunt Man, directed by Richard Rush. This movie truly had exactly that sort of effect on me, through scene after scene, until the very end.
And by "the very end" I don't mean "the end of the movie." I mean "the very end of the VHS cassette I first saw it on." I sat there in my chair, staring blankly at the screen with this fixed, open-mouth grin on my face after the credits rolled and the screen went to black. There was some blinking. No drooling as far as I can recall, but otherwise, I spent those several minutes staring at a black screen and trying to process what I'd just seen. What blew my mind wasn't the story itself so much as how it'd been told. As I reviewed the experience, I started to appreciate that The Stunt Man is possibly the finest magic trick I'd ever seen. The trick is over, it gratefully releases its grip on your sense of free will and independent observation, and you start to appreciate just how skilled the magician was.
This happy mental state was only broken by the THUNK of the tape stopping at the end of the leader and then auto-rewinding in the VHS deck.
But I'm precluded from choosing and discussing The Stunt Man for a couple of reasons.
First, while it's a movie I love to recommend to people, I adamantly believe that you should watch The Stunt Man knowing only two things in advance:
1) Peter O'Toole is in it;
2) Peter O'Toole is good in anything.
(Before you skip down to the bottom of the page to click a button and post a snarky reply: yes, I have seen Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage, as a matter of fact. And yes, Peter O'Toole was good in that, as well.)
When I sat down to see the movie for the first time, I didn't know anything about The Stunt Man other than it was a Peter O'Toole film that I had never seen. Two hours and ten minutes later, while the film was rewinding and just before I gave it an immediate second viewing, I intuitively understood that if I'd known that it was a comedy (or a drama) (or an action movie) (or a thriller with a twist ending) (or no twist ending), or that Peter O'Toole was the focus of the whole story (or that his role was barely of any consequence)... no, it wouldn't have been the same experience.
You have to watch it as a blank slate. It's a mind blowing movie. You have to allow "The Stunt Man" to pursue its own agenda with you, on its own timetable. It's ruined if you're two thirds of the way through and suddenly think of a scene from the trailer that you hasn't appeared yet. And the effect is certainly going to be ruined if I explain in advance why I think it's a mind-blowing movie.
The second reason I shouldn't talk about The Stunt Man is because it wasn't, in fact, the first thing that came to mind when I started thinking about "Mind blowing movies (or TV shows or whatever)."
It's actually a little bit embarrassing.
It was The Curse Of Mr. Bean.