Welcome To My Nightmare

ALL ABOARD! 3:10 To Yuma now boarding!

Yep, I saw the best Western to come out of Hollywood since…the last Western to come out of Hollywood. They don’t make ‘em with the regularity they once did, during those halcyon days of The Duke and The Man With No Name. Let me back up a sec here. I went to a local Cineplex that I’ve had issues with before, specifically with the lack of ushers. I started my working life as an usher for AMC Theatres. I’m blacklisted there now, can never work for them again. And no, I can’t go into details. But I also worked for the wonderful Moseley family who operated a local chain. There’s no art to being an usher. You pick up trash between shows and during shows you try to keep things pleasant for everyone. No putting feet on the backs of chairs. No sex in the chairs (unless you tag me in). No throwing anything. And no talking or other distractions (except if we’re running The Rocky Horror Picture Show). The Regal at the St. Louis Mills evidently does not enforce any of this. I’ve seen a dozen shows or more there. I’ve seen ZERO ushers. I’ve had to throw people out myself. I’ve threaten people with bodily harm if they don’t shut the Hell up once the show begins. And I swear to every deity under the sun if another asshole so much as thinks about their cell phone during the movie I will destroy them so completely they will cease to exist in the space/time continuum and not even Superboy punching blocks of quartz will bring them back. So I went to the show and paid one admission for “Shoot ‘Em Up.” A ridiculous, generic, bastard little brother to Sin City, so obviously I enjoyed it. I will admit that being the ONLY one in the show was equally enjoyable. As my credits rolled I walked out into the hallway to see the “3:10 To Yuma” sign flashing “Now Seating” and I thought, what the heck, they owe me one for all the shit I put up with at X-Men 3. And while I did enjoy Shoot ‘Em Up for what it is (a near-comic book movie, call it the Punisher with a sense of humor) I absolutely loved Yuma.

But O Glorious Nightmare — and feel free to call me that when you email me — what does this have to do with comics? After all, O Glorious Nightmare — see how easy that is? — you don’t write for the Popcorn Junkies movie review section of Insidepulse.com. And to you I say, “Because like all right-minded and free-thinking individuals, such as you, my loyal legions, I am capable of connecting dots where the layman might not even see the dots. And because I have this big damn Sharpie, the perfect tool for the job.” So yeah, basically I’m sitting there thinking, “Mein Gott! This is shit is great! Why the Hell don’t they make more of these? And why don’t Marvel or DC for that matter?”

Well, to be frank, it’s not like they NEVER do books outside the superhero genre. There’s Loveless and Jonah Hex available from DC. Image used to publish Jeff Mariotte’s Desperadoes, which I believe is now at IDW. Marvel will, every now and again, throw us a little Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt, or Rawhide Kid. But mostly, if you want a cowboy at Marvel you have to turn to She-Hulk of all places. That’s OK because She-Hulk is a big bowl of wholesome Dan Slott with a full day’s supply of Vitamin Gamma goodness but it sure ain’t terribly “Westernly.” Feel free to fill me in if I’m missing something…oh yeah, Dynamite Entertainment’s Lone Ranger. I really oughta give that a look someday. I’d really like to find Lansdale and Truman’s Lone Ranger miniseries from Topps Comics. Let’s not count The Dark Tower, it’s got some Western themes but I can’t get passed the Stephen King part. I greatly enjoyed the first book of the Gunslinger Saga, but by Book 3, with the long gaps between volumes, I just stopped caring. There‘s something to be said for timely, regular publishing.

I gave Loveless a try and just couldn’t get interested. I wasn’t real thrilled with Jonah Hex initially but have picked it up sporadically when I had a few extra dollars and liked it, but not enough to justify adding it to my already bulging monthly pull list. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I think in some ways I just don’t see the current Western genre offerings as being uniquely…Western. They somehow feel, to me anyway, like superhero comics dressed up as Cowboys. The horror tinge, the seemingly indestructible hero, there’s just not enough in terms of characterization and story that feels separate. Does anyone else feel that way or is it just me? I don’t want to give away a lot from “3:10 To Yuma” but there are important elements I just don’t seem to get from comics. See the movie and get back to me.

To take it a step further, I wish the major comic publishers would give an honest effort to producing some strictly non-superhero comics. It can and does work. It might not sell like Batman and X-Men, but it might get some different folks into a comic shop, and they might also leave with some Batman and X-Men. There are millions of readers of those trashy Harlequin Romance novels. Why not do a trashy romance line of comics? Go “mature reader” and let it all hang out, I say, tongue in cheek. What about Brubaker’s success in straight crime capers like his Criminal comic from Marvel’s Icon imprint? I love a good noir-style gumshoe yarn, and so do a lot of others. Brubaker’s Criminal isn’t much different from his Sleepers title, other than the existence of Wildstorm superheroes. What Batman does, what the Question does, what almost all street-level superheroes do, at some level, is private detective style crime sleuthing. Take away the costumes and the powers and you have Criminal. Two of my favorite manga comics are created by Rumiko Takahashi, Ranma ½ and Maison Ikkoku. These are at their heart stories about relationships. No horror, unless you’re plagued by nightmares about transforming into a giant panda. I suppose there’s the horror of experiencing, for the first time or again, the fears and awkwardness of trying to start a relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Rumiko Takahashi does that extremely well, and I frequently find myself having quick flashbacks of trying to get Becky Politowski to like me. And then when she did I was seeing someone else. Never fails, does it? I think almost everyone can relate to things like that. I think that’s why people like the “normal” super folks like Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and even Peter Parker — these guys all have or had our problems. Relationship stories should grip you in that familiar sense of titillation and dread. Marvel has a book that fit’s the bill, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. But I can’t think of any others from the major publishers. And don’t get me started on the lack of Pirate-themed comics despite the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Other than the late, great CrossGen‘s El Cazador, what else is there?

So to sum up, watching 3:10 To Yuma stirred up that pot of desire I keep bubbling on the back burner. Desire for better movies from Hollywood. Desire for more Westerns. Come to think of it, the best Western prior to this might be Firefly and Serenity! And those are also sci-fi, so that oughta tell ya something about the sorry state of Westerns these days. They oughta be more cost effective than, say, that Superman fiasco. And it stirred my desire to broaden my comic reading choices. I want to enjoy a Western comic. A Pirate comic. A Relationship comic. A detective-noir style comic. And I’d like it every month. Marvel is so close to embracing this, it seems. I’d imagine the Dark Tower is selling well — I’m waiting for the trade. But their Babel Brothers imprint stretched into a variety of fantasy worlds, and seem to avoid the urge to just mimic their superhero counterparts. Give in, O Might House of Ideas! Don’t worry about selling 100,000 units. If you appeal beyond the folks you already have your claws in, they’ll come, slowly but surely. DC too. Image, Dark Horse, and the rest. Bring the whole enchilada! Heroes, cowboys, pirates, dragons, samurai–we want it all! And we’ll buy it all, if you let us.

Alas, this Wednesday, I suspect my choices will be rather limited to men in spandex, with or without their undies on the outside.

Welcome to my nightmare.

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