Friday, 5 August 2011

Dark Phoenix and Tabby Boom Boom shake the room

Dark Phoenix Vs. Evanescence

Thanks to the greatness of X-Men: First Class I’ve gone on a bit of an X-Men binge of late.

To start with, I went and bought Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s classic Dark Phoenix Saga first published in the late 1970’s. I haven’t read this bad boy since I was a kid when it first came out. And reading it now I’m sure back then a lot of it must have gone way over my childish head. Claremont’s writing is brilliant. It’s mature, intelligent, full of depth, thematic resonance and great, great character arcs. His style is lush, creative, emotional and rather poetic. One moment the story is a sweeping galaxy spanning epic, and then, in an eye blink, it is a small, emotional and intimate story about family, love and loss. What I love is that Claremont clearly wasn’t afraid to write what is basically a comic book for kids as if he were writing a deadly serious, character driven tragedy that deals with some pretty weighty themes. The story of Jean Grey and her tragic and seemingly unavoidable destiny is truly the stuff of classic mythology and Claremont and Byrne treat their tale with due seriousness and respect.

Oh, and as a related point of interest, the Dark Phoenix Saga is also the story that introduced the character of Kitty Pryde - the smart, capable fifteen year old girl who suddenly discovers she has special powers and must come to terms with her own destiny. Now, as any decent Whedonite worth their salt will know, Kitty is much loved by Joss and was a major inspiration behind his creation of Buffy Summers, who in turn served as inspiration to the creators of the X-Men: Evolution animated series, which featured prominently none other than Kitty Pryde. And then, just to complete the circle, Joss went on to write the highly acclaimed Astonishing X-Men comic featuring prominently none other than – yep, you guessed it - Kitty Pryde. Such perfect creative synchronicity in action.

And after that short interlude its back now to our regularly scheduled programming.

So, yeah, the Dark Phoenix Saga is excellent stuff. Reading it makes you realise just how lame the third X-Men film actually was. They tried to do the whole Jean Grey/Phoenix thing only to screw it up well and truly. One day someone should just film Claremont & Byrne’s story. Mind you, it is so epic, spanning galaxies, warring aliens and the destruction of entire civilisations, that it would probably cost an absolute fortune to make. Still, one can but dream.

And still on my X-Men trip…

Tabby ‘Boom Boom’ Smith Vs. Green Day

As well as rereading classic X-Men comics I’ve also been watching the aforementioned cartoon series X-Men: Evolution (2000 – 2003). I know someone who’s a big fan of this show and they thought I’d also like it being the huge Buffy fan that I am. And they were right. X-Men: Evolution is a great show, taking the X-Men back to their original comic book teen roots, only in a contemporary setting. In Evolution, Xavier, Wolverine and Storm are the parental figures running what is essentially a home for troubled (i.e. mutant) kids. Some are orphans, like Scott (Cyclops) Summers; others, like Kurt (Nightcrawler) Wagner, Kitty (Shadowcat) Pryde and Jean Grey have all been sent there by their families. Then there are the ones like dour Goth girl Rogue, who have been actively sought out by Xavier and co. and given a home. Living at the mansion, the kids learn to accept and control their abilities, not letting their abilities control them. They also attend the local high school so as to learn how better to relate to ‘normal’ people in an everyday setting.

For an animated kids show the writing on X-Men: Evolution has remarkable depth. The characters are distinct, well written, likeable and with real character journeys to go on. It also has a nice line in wit and can be pretty darn funny at times. One of my favourite characters in the show is the fun-loving, trouble-loving Tabby 'Boom Boom' Smith (see video above). In one memorable episode Tabby is being trained by the X-Men but she isn’t taking any of it remotely seriously and keeps on calling Wolverine “Badger” much to his extreme annoyance. I did laugh rather hard at that. Poor Wolvie. Being emasculated by a teenage girl.

In Evolution, as in Buffy, everyday troubles faced by both the kids and the adults in the show are often given the ol’ metaphor treatment. Whereas Buffy used vampires, demons and other assorted supernatural nasties as the walking metaphors for the big bad of growing up and of life in general, so Evolution uses bad mutants, human prejudice and the kids’ own abilities as problems and obstacles to confront and overcome. At the time the producers and writers of Evolution freely admitted to being huge Buffy fans and of borrowing quite a bit from Joss’s little myth. And that’s great as Joss did exactly the same with the X-Men when creating the Buffster. I’ve gotta say I’m enjoying X-Men: Evolution quite a bit. It lasted four seasons and I’m currently half way through season 2 and it’s only getting better. Also on the X-Men front, I’ve gone and bought the latest X-Men cartoon series -Wolverine and the X-Men. It’s on TV every Saturday morning over here and, just like Evolution, it is pretty darn good. Not surprising as it comes from the same team who made Evolution, though it is not a sequel and finds the X-Men in their usual adult versions.

So, yeah, gotta love those troubled mutants.

That’s all for now, bub.


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