Great Powers, Great Responsibilities

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Superheroes are big business. Iron Man 3 just netted the second biggest box office opening in movie history, trailing only the Avengers, of which Iron Man was also a part. And while last year’s The Dark Knight Rises slightly underwhelmed — if only because 2008’s The Dark Knight is a modern day masterpiece — it provided a fitting end for Christopher Nolan’s seminal Dark Knight trilogy and ushered in a new blueprint — gritty, reality-based — on which action franchises ranging from the Bond films to this summer’s Superman reboot are based.

Next summer we’ll get X-Men: Days of Future Past, which, based on what we know from the books and the unison of two separate film casts, could make it the most ambitious comic project yet.

Meanwhile, on the small screen, ABC’s line of new shows for fall 2013 is headlined by Agents of SHIELD, a TV series spun off the Marvel universe. The show looks crappy, but it’s probably going to be a hit, because right now superheroes shit can’t miss.

Last fall, I flew back to Hong Kong after about a year in New York. I wasn’t sure if I was moving back to Hong Kong or just staying for a couple of months — I was fucking torn — and that uncertainty meant I had to pack extra, extra light.

So I left behind my large books/comics/magazines/CD collection, packing only the essentials: laptops, Air Jordans, a pair of “regular shoes”, a few underwears, two button up shirts, three t-shirts, three books (including Dave Eggers’ What Is The What), a couple of family pictures, and half dozen magazines.

One of the magazines I packed was this:

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It’s an old issue, from September 2010. I brought it with me anyway because I figured that, if I settle here, this is going on the wall of fame, which is essentially a bunch of personal shit I hold dear: my autographed Noel Gallagher Q magazine, that Allen Iverson SLAM I blogged about, my first front page South China Morning Post story, film stubs for Taxi Driver, TDKR, and Beasts of the Southern Wild, my meme t-shirt, and film prints. Yeah I collect magazines like I collect books, film posters, albums, and film ticket stubs. I just collect shit, in general.

Anyway, the concept behind this issue’s theme was brilliant–combine the two most popular things with dudes (overall, throughout the world) today: Superheroes and NBA.

This assembling of NBA stars with Marvel heroes make sense on all fronts: On the business end, Marvel had just been purchased by Disney, which also owns ESPN, so this was a great marketing move. It works outside the corporate machination machine too, since no other sports league produce larger-than-life characters like the NBA. I mean, really, you’ve seen this Nike Kobe Bryant ad in which major stars from other fields — like Kanye, Serena Williams, Wang Leehom, and others — look up to Kobe and his dedication, right? Or how about athletes from other sports, most superstars in their own right, wearing Jordan’s brand?

Some of the amalgamations, such as Deron Williams as Daredevil, was a reach then and a complete farce today. But others were hits from the start and make even more sense today, like Kobe as Iron Man (really, the dude kept pushing and pushing through injuries until his achilles popped). But my favorite part of this feature was the re-imagining of iconic Marvel covers, with NBA figures.

Let’s take a look.

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This ties LeBron’s leaving of Cleveland with a legendary Spider-man story from the late 60s, in which Peter Parker quits by declaring “Spider-Man No More!”

Here’s another:

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Exit Cyclops, with Exit Melo. This was done during that time when Anthony was trying to force his way out of Denver to New York. This saga — dubbed the MeloDrama by media — dragged on for months until the Nuggets finally traded him to the Knicks in return for Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, FAT Ray Felton, and Wilson Chandler. Cyclops returned eventually, Melo will not. The former eventually turned into a Malcolm X-like revolutionary, going on a power trip that led to his accidentally killing of Professor X. The latter turned into a smallball revolutionary, though his inability to make others better is about to kill the Knicks, who are on the brink of elimination.

Here, we have Kobe doing his Tony Stark:

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As mentioned, this makes even more sense today, for Kobe Bryant is the toughest basketball player we’ve seen in our time. He’s played through a myriad of injuries — thought some exaggerated by LA media more than others. It’s only fitting that, like Stark in the 70s, Kobe eventually broke from the wear and tear. We all know what happened: after playing heavy minutes this season in an effort to keep his underachieving Lakers afloat, Kobe’s body, 34 years old with 17 years of heavy mileage on his legs, finally broke. At least part of it, the achilles. Given his age and the severity of the injury, he may never fully recover to his old self. The Kobe Bryant we know and have watched for the past 17 years may be gone.

Moving on…

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Oh the irony. When Amare Stoudemire landed in New York during the Summer of LeBron, the city, along with Stoudemire, celebrated in a giant circle jerk, with the latter proclaiming that “New York Knicks are back!” and the former pretending like Amare wasn’t their 4th choice behind LeBron, Wade, and even Bosh.

See that banner in the back? Even the Avengers thought New York was getting LeBron. I sure thought so — I blogged about LeBron to New York for 3 full years starting in 2007. For shame.

Finally…

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I like this one simply because we have Marvel’s big three¹, Cap, Thor, and Iron Man, paying tribute to the Spurs’ superior big three. Spurs have been consistently underrated for over a decade. For example, why am I hearing everyone make Kobe out to be hands down last decade’s best player when Tim Duncan won more rings as the best player and has double the MVPs? also, why do I have to put up with New York and Bay Area getting cocky over their teams winning 50+ games for one year when Duncan has done that EVERY SINGLE YEAR OF HIS CAREER?

And for those who know me, you already know my love of Manu Ginobili. I have him as a top five greatest European player ever, top 12 best white player ever, and the second most clutch, best big-game player of the past decade behind Mr Bryant. And you could make a case that he should be first.

I’m naming my future dog Manu, by the way.

FOOTNOTE:

¹ Cap, Thor, and Iron Man are only Marvel’s “big three” to Marvel’s fictional characters within Marvel’s own universe, but not to real life folks like you and I. For example, Peter Parker idolizes Stark, Punisher grew up idolizing Cap, and every fictional character in Marvel consider Cap/Thor/Iron Man the big guns. But in real life, these three, especially Thor and Cap, are uninteresting characters that don’t sell. They’re second tier heroes behind the true A-listers. We know who the A-list heroes are based on how many books they carry. Spider-man, Wolverine, and over in DC, Batman appear in 5-8 titles a month. Wolverine is everywhere, from X-Men to Avengers to his solo stories, cementing his status as the biggest star in Marvel. Guys like Cap and Thor, meanwhile, barely have one title each, because they don’t sell. Marvel IRL knows this, that’s why they added Spidey and Wolverine to the Avengers in recent years. So even though the fictional guys inside the Marvel universe refer to Captain America as the leader of the Avengers, the stories that are told in books we read always somehow revolve around Spider-man, because he’s the bigger star in real life.

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