Once in a while, the studio machine gets it right, and what was supposed to be a typical genre picture hits all the right notes and becomes a timeless classic that transcends genre. The audience, or at least a segment of the audience, responds on a visceral level to the film, and it becomes a landmark in their lives. I believe Black Panther is one such film.
Among movies that are bad, there are some that are fun-bad, the unintentional comedies that keep Rifftrax and MST3K in business. And then there are the ones that are just plain bad. Some are so bad that sitting through them becomes an endurance contest, the cinematic equivalent of a dare. I’ve seen plenty of each.
It was September of 1974, my first day at a new school. I was 15, but I looked 11. My last class of the day was Drama. I was late. I got to walk in after everyone else was in their seats, so I was completely the center of attention. I made my way awkwardly into the room, trying to look less nervous than I was. One of the girls loudly said “Oh, he’s so little! We can use him as an elf at Christmas!” A loud voice erupted from the back of the room. “I got dibs on Santa!” A big guy was sprawled on a sofa against the back wall. He had absurdly large muttonchop sideburns, and was, improbably enough, wearing a dark green choir robe over his shoulders like a cape. That was my introduction to Wally Oden.
We have a few Christmas traditions here at Casa MacQ; one of them is the annual reading of Berke Breathed’s ‘Red Ranger Came Calling,’ a simply marvelous holiday story that I stumbled upon in a Target store about ten years ago. The cover caught my interest, partly because it’s Berke Breathed, and partly because of the vintage toys all scattered around, so, while waiting for family to find whatever they were looking for, I picked it up and started skimming it.
Today would have been Harry Chapin’s 75th birthday, if his life hadn’t been tragically cut short in 1981. If you don’t know who Harry was or why you should care, well, I’m going to tell you. Of course he’s best known for the perennial favorite (of everyone except lousy dads), Cats in the Cradle, which has been covered by everyone from Judy Collins to Ugly Kid Joe, but that’s not how he left his mark on the world.
My first Roy Thomas comic was also my first Marvel comic. I was a wee lad in third grade, a big devotee of the Batman TV show, and had thus far successfully badgered my mother into buying precisely one comic from the spinner rack at Young’s Market. Some time later, I found myself parked on a naugahyde couch awaiting my turn in the barber’s chair, when my eyes fell upon the cover of Uncanny X-Men #29. This was my introduction to both the Marvel Universe and its best writer, Roy Thomas.
I was 23 when Lawn Chair Larry slipped the surly bonds of earth; I actually clipped out the newspaper article at the time, because I thought it was so perfect and inspiring, that ideal combination of vision, ingenuity, and the determination to do a spectacularly stupid thing and somehow pull it off. Larry’s great adventure has been the springboard for a movie, a Broadway musical, a couple of episodes of TV series, a hoax, and possibly even the movie ‘Up’. Because it’s just that inspiring.