Posts Tagged ‘Captain America’

The Day I Watched The 1990 Captain America Movie

March 22, 2011

The announcement on io9 that the 1990 Captain America movie is going to be rereleased with a director’s cut promoted this blog:


There are days that, when they occur, have a dramatic impact on the rest of your life.

The day I watched the 1990 Captain America movie was one of those days because, in an odd way, that Captain America movie taught me about hope.

Rewind to an early Saturday morning in the Fall of 1990 and I was at my high school (Go Chargers!) taking the SAT exam for the second time.

My first attempt yielded me a score that was less than favorable and this second attempt was my best hope to get a score that might secure me a spot somewhere other than my “safety” school.

My college admissions was hinged on retaking this exam and doing significantly better than I had previously and having a score that I could start to send out in the Fall for early admissions.

Like I said.  It was one of those days that then shapes the rest of your life.

I had gone to an SAT prep class, and while my instructor was good she could not prepare me for what was about to happen.

Towards the end of the exam, as the classroom turned to section 6, the proctor made a startling request, “Please turn to section 3 of your exam booklets.”

I say that this is “startling” because one of the first things they teach you in SAT prep classes is that once you’re done with a section; you’re done.  They don’t go back.

So, as everyone turned to section 3, the proctor made another request.  The one that would change my life.

Please raise your hand if there are 35 questions in your exam booklet.

I raised my hand.  Along with a number of other students (we represented maybe 10% of the students in the room).

The proctor then said, “Please close your exam booklets and give your tests to me and leave the room.  There has been an error.  Your test has been invalidated and you are asked to call the Princeton Review on Monday to schedule a makeup exam.

At 17 years old, I don’t think any of us were handling the shock of our futures being torn away from us.  As we tried to plead and beg to get more information, the proctor pushed us out of the room explaining that the other students (the fortunate ones) still needed to finish their exams.

Leave the room.

That was the request.

And we complied.

We would later find out that in the history of giving the SAT exam, this was the first time in something like 30 years where there was a misprint in the exam booklets (section 3 was meant to have 45 questions).  But we’d only find this out later.

For that moment, in the hallways of North Miami Beach Senior High School, we wandered with thousand yard stares trying to get information from each other.  From teachers.  From anyone.

But there were no answers to be had.  This was 1990.  There was no Internet to speak of and any calls to the Princeton Review went straight to voice mail (don’t forget, it was Saturday).

My future was uncertain.  I didn’t know if there would be a chance to retake my SAT in time to start applying early to the colleges I wanted to go to.  And worse, would I even be ready to take the exam for a third time?

I think I called my brother from a pay phone and all I could do was laugh because crying would have just made me realize the gravity of the situation.

So.  It was 11 AM on a Saturday and of course, my thought was to go to my local comic book store around the corner.

I don’t know that I had the courage to go home right away.

I think I explained the the situation to Glen (the owner) and I forget if I had already had it on hold or not, but he gave me a bootleg VHS of the Captain America movie with Matt Saligner that was being passed around among the customers.

He warned me it was horrible.

I didn’t care.

I went home and watched it.  Trying.  So hard.  So so hard to get  my mind off of the impact this curve ball would have on the rest of my life.

The only thing I can remember was that the shield special effect looked expensive and I think it didn’t have Nazis (I think they fought the Italians?).

Subconsciously, the act of me going to the comic store.  Watching Captain America.  Trying to bring some level of normalcy back to my life.  It was me knowing that things would be OK.

That hope was an option and that I was embracing hope because it’s always there.

Much like Steve Rogers was given hope to serve his country and fight the Nazis Italians (?) for his country.

Things worked out, and they worked out for the better quite frankly.

Most of us found out that week that the Princeton Review would comp us to take the exam at a later date.  I retook the exam (for a third time) in May and had my results that summer in time to apply for early decision to many of the schools I wanted to go to.

My score went up 170 points.  Actually, it went up 180, since the Princeton Review decided to go back and grade the English on the second exam (the only section that was officially completed by us).

The combination of the second English section and the third Math section was enough to get me accepted to the University of Texas (Hook ‘Em).

And things turned OK because I guess I always knew that there was hope.

So.  Like I said.  As strange as it sounds, the Matt Salinger Captain America taught me hope.

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My First Comic Book Convention Experience

July 31, 2009

As a follow-up to the post “This Is What Comic Conventions Are About,” I can’t help but share my first comic book convention experience.

In the 1980’s, there were a string of comic book conventions held in a single room at the North Miami Beach Howard Johnson.

The conventions consisted of local dealers and a handful of artists.  It was a small show, but it was all we had.

My First Convention

At my first comic book convention, I think I was so young that I could barely see over the tables and I’m also pretty sure that this was one of the conventions where my mother was walking around with me (in later years, she’d drop me off for the day).

These are the types of comic convention experiences that kids (and adults) should have.
That has always been the best part of the comic book experience.
It got me nostalgic for a “when I was a kid story” of how
Of course, you realize this leads me to a “when I was a kid story” (please hold back your groans, I’m going somewhere with this).
In the 1980’s, there were a string of comic book conventions held in a room at the NMB Howard Johnson and featured local dealers and a handful of artists.
At one of my first conventions (or maybe even my first), I was so short that my head just barely made it above the tables and I think my mother was with me (at later conventions she’d drop me off for the day).
So, there I am.  And Captain America artist Mike Zeck is at his table sketching.  To say I watched in awe is to say that deer pause when met with headlights.  I forget how it came up, but I learned that convention sketches were $10 (or something like that).  I was noticeably upset by this information and Zeck saw this.
He completed the sketch, pulled out a new board and furiously drew something in pencil.  His hand moved at Sergio Aragones-speed and then he leaned over and said, “What’s your name?”  I told him, he put what looked like the finishing touches on what he was doing and then handed me the board.
In my hands I now had a Mike Zeck penciled head sketch of Captain America.  Personalized with my name.
In 30+ years of reading comics, it’s one of the single-greatest experiences I’ve ever had reading comic books.
It was a nice gesture and a personal touch that pulled me into loving comic books for life.
Which is why I was so happy when I saw the story about Matt Fraction and the Littlest Vision.
This kid is gonna be a Marvel Zombie for life.  And it’s awesome that Joe Quesada and the rest of the Marvel Bullpen gave this kid (and everyone watching) this experience.
Which is why I was happy as all get-out that I saw this article.

Anyhow, at some point I ended up in front of Captain America (and later Secret Wars, Punisher and Kraven’s Last Hunt) artist Mike Zeck‘s table.

Mike Zeck  was drawing a sketch for a fan and up until that point in time I had never actually seen the act of someone drawing a comic book character.

Sure, I scribbled in the margins of my notebooks at school, but this was quite different.  This was like coming across one of the “seven wonders of the world.”  I was awestruck.  It was easily one of the most amazing things I had seen up until that point.

I forget how it came up, but as he was drawing I learned that convention sketches were $10 (or something like that).  I was noticeably upset by this information.  My mother had already paid for the admission fee to the convention and I was reluctant to ask her for more money for such a “luxury item.”

As he was finishing, Mike Zeck saw the expression of disappointment on my face and after completing the sketch he was working on he pulled out a new board and furiously drew something with his pencil.  He then leaned over and said, “What’s your name?”  I told him and he put the finishing touches on the board and then he handed it to me.

In my small hands was a Mike Zeck Captain America head sketch.  Personalized with my name, and it even had a word balloon that said, “Make Mine Marvel!”

I was a comic book fan already.  This made me a lifer.  No question.

Mike Zeck remains a permanent fixture in my “top 5 favorite artists” list and in my 30+ years of reading comic books, it is one of the single-most amazing experiences I have ever had (second, of course, to Identity Crisis many years later).

But here’s the thing.  The comic book community is full of stories like this.  So much of the culture and community is about being polite and paying it forward.

Myself and countless other fans have had numerous experiences like this.

Simple and kind gestures that make a positive impact on the fans.

Writers Who Pay It Forward

Which is why I feel compelled to add an additional story to this post.  Many years later, at the same convention, I met Louise Simonson and she took the time to show me my first comic book script.

At that point in time, the Internet was still a concept in a William Gibson novel and magazines like Amazing Heroes and The Comics Journal certainly covered the mechanics of comic books but neither really got down to the nuts and bolts of things like what a script looked like (come to think of it, outside of the Marvel Try Out, I don’t think there was even a way to see a script if you weren’t an industry professional).

So when she showed me how it was done and talked about the process of writing a comic book; that again changed how I read comic books.

(and yes, she’s a permanent fixture on my “top 5 favorite writers” list)

The Internet And Paying It Forward

Which is why I love how Brian Michael Bendis* (permanent fixture in my “top 3 favorite writers”) has used social media to give back to the fans in his own way.  If you listen to the Word Balloon “Bendis Tapes,” he provides writing advice and process tips to fans.  If DVD extras are a way to save money on film school, the Bendis tapes are the quickest way to understanding what it takes to work in comic books.  And, I should point out that he also gives back by publishing the Powers Script Book so fans could see behind the curtain.

It’s not just limited to Mike Zeck, Louise Simonson and Brian Michael Bendis.

Look at the work on the Superman house.  That’s creators and fans.  Which is to say that it’s not even just limited to comic book creators.

It’s the readers who give back as well.  Like giving a comic book they’re done with to a kid on a plane or train.  Or when you see someone in a comic book store, clearly confused (or overwhelmed), and you try to lead them towards the books that they might like reading.

The creators and the fans in the comic book community and culture share simple acts of kindness that are often absent from other media and it’s comic book conventions that are some times the most visible place this occurs.

This is kind of why I was a bit down on San Diego Comic-Con (but picked up again when I saw “the littlest Vision” and further when James Robinson reminded me about Baltimore and Emerald City in his Twitter).

This is not to say that there aren’t extremely kind people in television, movies, sports, etc.  But I seem to think that it’s inside the comic book culture that you have more “immediate” access to this type of thing (and especially at conventions).

Conclusion

There’s a great scene in the movie Trading Places where Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) is getting ready for his first day of work.  His butler, Coleman, offers him the following advice:

Coleman: Just be yourself, sir. Whatever happens, they can’t take that away from you.

And that’s the thing.  Whatever happens.  However big San Diego Comic-Con gets.  However many movies or television shows Hollywood produces.  They can not alter who we are as comic fans/readers and who the creators are and these acts of kindness that build our community.  We will always have that, and they can never take that away from us.

(this last bit would work brilliantly if I was able to ride a horse like in Braveheart…)

*I got to meet Bendis at Comic-Con in the mid-90’s, he’d just finished AKA Goldfish and was starting up on Jinx.  One of the nicest people I’ve met in comics and he even offered to replace my Caliber copy of the AKA Goldfish trade because of the crappy glue. I declined cause I felt bad that he wouldn’t have a copy of the book to sell to someone else.