Thursday, May 26, 2011


Tales from the Crypt

Tales from the Crypt, The Haunt of Fear and The Vault of Horror—the three horror comic books published by Bill Gaines of EC Comics in the 1950s—brought the US comics industry under government scanner, and nearly to a standstill, because of their perceived negative impact on children. The government's interference that included a Congressional hearing resulted in the imposition of the Comics Code, a law termed draconian by comic book publishers, especially of the horror variety. The cover is that of the first issue of Tales from the Crypt. So if you have any, even reprints, hold on to them—however scary they might be!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Adventures of World War II

Two wartime books, The Angry Hills by Leon Uris (1955) and Storm Warning (1976) by Jack Higgins, have only one thing in common: they are both about WWII. The stories are markedly different but contain high-voltage suspense and adventure from cover to cover. 

The Angry Hills, set in Nazi-occupied Greece, is about a low-key American writer caught between Hitler's invading forces out to kill him and a daring Greek resistance force trying to rescue him. For at stake is the secret information he hides and which he must deliver to allied forces in London, at the cost of his own life. The innocent, albeit desperate, American's hellish journey to freedom forms the crux of this gripping story.     

Jack Higgins is yet to write a novel that does not entertain. Storm Warning does in great measure; in fact, as well as The Eagle Has Landed. Twenty-two men and five nuns embark on a dangerous journey from Brazil to Germany across the vast and turbulent Atlantic, and are shipwrecked. In a narrative reminiscent of stories featuring in Commando comics, friends and foes, British and Germans, come together in a brave and desperate attempt to save the passengers.

Recommended for a lazy Sunday afternoon or as a travel companion.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Thor: The not so mighty warrior

Chris Hemsworth as Thor in the movie
I am biased towards superhero movies so I can’t say I didn’t enjoy watching Thor with my teenage son in the opening week.

I liked the movie because of three reasons: one, the bias factor—it was based on Marvel’s fictional superhero; two, terrific special effects—it was like watching a Thor comic book come alive; and three, spellbinding background score—it put you in the mood no sooner the credits started rolling.

What I didn’t like about the film was the mighty Thor’s appearance and a predictable storyline.

Let’s look at the what-I-didn’t-like part.

Thor in Marvel comics
I thought lead actor Chris Hemsworth, for all his charm and chutzpah in the film, wasn’t convincing as the powerful hammer-wielding God of Thunder and future king of Asgard, the heavenly abode of the Norse gods. To put it mildly, Hemsworth (of Star Trek and A Perfect Getaway fame) looked far too boyish in the role. The Mighty Thor of Marvel comic book is anything but “cute” as one woman in the theatre observed. The 6.6-feet bearded Thor is as rugged as he’s handsome, as valiant as he’s virtuous, and as humble as he’s arrogant.

If you read Thor comics, you’ll know what I mean.

The weak storyline, typically, has an arrogant Thor stripped off his magical powers by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), the supreme god of war and ruler of Asgard, and banished to earth where he must redeem himself by defending a handful of mortals, including the girl in his life, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), in a small and nondescript desert town. The lesson in humility pays off. The story still doesn’t.

Something else was missing in Thor the movie: the Norse god’s horned-and-feathered helmet. In the comics you rarely find Thor without his headgear. Like Spider-Man without his mask.

The absence of the helmet was, however, more than compensated for by the mighty Thor’s weapon of mass destruction—the hammer—both in deafening sounds and blinding visuals.

In short, you will enjoy Thor the movie, with all its intergalactic colour and action, only if you are a fan of Thor the comic book.

Stan Lee, the creator of Thor at Marvel Comics, once spoke of his dilemma over the genesis of this superhero: “How do you make someone stronger than the strongest person? It finally came to me: Don't make him human—make him a god. I decided readers were already pretty familiar with the Greek and Roman gods. It might be fun to delve into the old Norse legends… Besides, I pictured Norse gods looking like Vikings of old, with the flowing beards, horned helmets, and battle clubs. …Journey into Mystery (first appearance: August 1962) needed a shot in the arm, so I picked Thor…”

Meanwhile, Chris Hemsworth is slated to reappear as Thor in Marvel’s The Avengers of which he is the founding and longest serving member. The multi-star film, directed by Joss Whedon, will be released in 2012. Keeping fingers crossed.