Life On Earth-616: Do the Time Warp

Neil Gaiman. Time Travel. The Marvel Canon. Mix these fine ingredients and you should get something amazing right?

Well, what you do get is Marvel 1602 which is fun, energetic, enjoyable, and creative. It does no quite blow you away like you keep expecting it to, like you might wish after reading the first issue, but nevertheless, it’s a breezy, adventurous comic book read.

More than anything, the limited comic series is an interesting premise on many levels. What happens when you transport all your favorite super heroes to Elizabethan times? The Spanish Inquisition seeks to burn and torture heretics and witches. Those with angel wings, who can control weather, who are cosmic magicians, who are beast-men– those people might just be tied to a stake and burned. At the same time, King James of Scotland is carefully watching the throne as Queen Elizabeth dies.

Our heroes, clad in olden clothes and olden times (Sir Nicholas Fury, Peter Parquagh, and the gang) must face a new corrupt monarchy, an evil, rich count (Count Von Doom!), a time traveling Captain/Native American impersonator, The Spanish Inquisition (lead by a man readers will recognize halfway through the book), and oh– the imminent destruction of not only Earth but every world ever.

Because of the time-altering, strange events in this continuity, the world becomes 313 rather than 616, a separate universe. Whenever Marvel wants to open up a new plot line with the same characters, they generally just unfold a new world/dimension. Because someone traveled back in time, they have to reverse events to their proper order. At the end, however, things continue in this world for some reason, because there’s a new dimension?? Or something?? Anyways, it allows for a sequel which I may or may not read. That will depend on the reviews I read.

I read this in a course of two days, both at night and by the pool. It’s that sort of comic book, not exactly the dark, gritty stuff of Watchmen, but the fun heroes-to-the-rescue bravado with a historical twist.

The most fun in this book is discovering who is who, which current character corresponds with other Marvel characters. Some are simple like Dr. Strange, but others you must endure the entire story before discovering their identity. If you’re looking for a quick, light read that gives a fresh feel to characters you already love, give this a try.

(I might just pick up the sequel after discovering Iron Man features in it. Hm…)

Just for the record, Gaiman did a killer job with Daredevil’s character. Loved both his swagger and interpretation. This, I think, may have been a call-out to Shakespeare’s Fieste in Twelfth Night just as Jane Gray’s cross-dressing also paid tribute to Shakespeare.

I know also I said at the beginning I wasn’t blown away by the book, but I did enjoy it immensely. Gaiman did a good job of balancing suspense with cameos and fanboy winks.


The Bawdy Bard: Why Inappropriate Humor Matters

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Last night, while watching the Aiken County Playhouse’s rendition of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, I realized something important about fiction, more specifically comedy: dirty humor is a must.

Many people shake their heads at sexual humor, seemingly meant only to stimulate the minds of sick teenage boys (me). I mean, American Reunion has been released, a beg-play at making more money off the original franchise. Of course, there have been umpteen direct-to-DVD sequels, but apparently the series is successful enough to continue producing movies. Why?

I will say it out right- dirty humor is hilarious. Sure, it is immature and pointless and plebeian and sometimes sickening, but always funny.  Butter, a cow Halloween costume, and a game of truth-or-dare add up to nothing less than hilarious in my mind. Oh, why cannot directors and even writers use adult humor. The Woody Allen kind, the cold, ironic humor. Sure, I think that is quite funny too, but not always laugh-out-loud funny. Refer to a sex organ through a balloon animal and yes, I will howl like a hyena.

Shakespeare is likely one of my favorite bawdy comics. When he begins making jokes about sex, he gets down and dirty, and he’s not

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afraid to refer to some of the most taboo subjects of his time. What Shakespeare does really well which some contemporary dirty movies is use subtlety to tell these dirty jokes. He’ll will refer to sex via hilarious puns and innuendos. Have we lost the art of subtlety? It’s not funny to simple call oral sex oral sex. But if you refer to a “the winds that Mother Nature even could blow,” that is dead funny in a Victorian England sort of way.

What fails at these references: see any American Pie spin0ff, horror movie featuring killer fish and topless girls, or National Lampoon straight-to-DVD film.

Compare the following.

Shakespeare Sonnet 125:

The sea, all water, yet receives rain still,
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in ‘Will,’ add to thy ‘Will’
One will of mine, to make thy large will more.


In this passage, the word “Will” takes on the double meaning of ambition as well as “phallus.”

Now, consider the movie American Pie where the entire joke IS sex. You cannot allow sex itself to be funny. Look viewers, there is sex happening on the screen between two teenagers! And look, a naked midget!

It just does not work. I appreciate those movies for their raunchiness, but dirty does not ultimately equate funny. Dirty and smartly stylized equates to funny.

The question we must consider… is WHY we appreciate dirty humor. Shakespeare included it in his plays for the lower class. In one play (say, Hamlet), the bard explores the woes of love, life, and revenge and also makes jokes about virginity, whore-dom, and Ophelia’s breasts. This is why I love Shakespeare. He can be both hilarious and serious within the span of a single monologue. So, when I see a very serious movie that applies very dirty humor, I think “Yes. This great.”

Humor must be had in any great work of literature or film, I believe. It is what allows us to connect at a more visceral level to what’s going on. Laughing makes our bellies shake, our voices boom out. Which offers a nice balance to contemplating the movie’s more intellectual themes.

So, remember, next time you pop open a cold one and get ready to watch a dirty movie dealing primarily with sex, that this experience was made possible and popular by the dirty mind of William Shakespeare. He’s a dude’s dude.

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Can Anyone Be JUST a Writer?

Because I would love to be.

You don’t realize you’re making a mistake, until suddenly you do.

Just like that time you accidentally waited six hours in line to ride Space Mountain at Disney World only to realize you were actually instead in the ticket line for Universal Studios, so long that it stretches across Orlando and through Disney World as well. Standing at the counter, you realize that you’ve wasted a lot of time fighting for something you never wanted.

"This isn't DisneyLand anymore?" "WAIT! We're not in line to buy the new Harry Potter book?"

Maybe that to me is what a law degree is. Or any sort of degree other than one in… English.

No law degree hides in my possession at the age of 17, but the possibility for one does. At 17, everything seems possible. I could still drop this writing gig and became a neurosurgeon. I find me asking myself, why not? Why not a doctor? Or a lawyer? Or a politician? I could make a difference, couldn’t I?

But I don’t want to. At least, not that way.

The only real problem with wanting to be a writer is needing to be a writer. Once you start, it’s not something you can just stop. It’s sort of a very healthy addiction. Maybe not for your wallet, but…

Not many people can make it just as a writer. Especially not at first.

Even armed with creative writing MFA’s and publishing connections, a writer still has to worry about surviving off the money he or she makes. And what can you buy with dough except maybe the flour to make more dough for bread and maybe water, scarcely? Sounds harsh, right?

But besides the hundreds of exceptions you can spill out, think on the thousands, nay, millions of writers making not diddly squat. Unless you write about boy wizards or in-love vampires, you need another career.

Which is something I have always battled with, since I only want to be a writer. Not that everyone really WANTS to do their jobs, only… I figured by now I’d be famous and rich enough not to work another day in my life. And if I am that disappointed by what I haven’t achieved by the age of 17, then maybe I’m shooting too high.

So what now? What am I to do for the rest of my life while pursuing a literary career? Becoming an English professor sounds cool, maybe first a high school English teacher? The country needs more, better teachers, right? I can TOTES do that.

What sort of jobs have literary men held in the past? Well, let us take a peek…

Dickens worked in a blacking factory at the age of eleven. (I think I’ll pass)

Shakespeare worked as a schoolmaster.

Oscar Wilde, before writing much, was a perpetual college student.

Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love, worked as a boxing stringer for the Associated Press.

Chuck Palahniuk worked as an intern at a radio station before writing his first novel at the age of 30.

Many writers don’t start out writers. They don’t grow into adults already established and published. That takes years. So, yes, writers must also have real jobs. I know….. it disappoints me too.