Big Hero 6: Why Do You Make Me So Happy?

Big Hero 6 Baymax in Costume

Disney’s Big Hero 6 is a real treat for those who like to go out to an animated movie. The environments are lush, the designs are vivid, the animation is stunning, the characters are well-defined, the plot has pathos, there are laughs, there are cries, there are thrills aplenty, high-concept throw-aways, “aw, cute” moments…

Big Hero 6 Hiro in Costume

The movie also exhibits so much by way of video game dynamics, anime-and-manga tropes, nerd culture, S.T.E.M. proselytization, violence disavowal, female empowerment, minority representation, and toy-selling potential…

No one on Earth can be unhappy with this movie.

And neither am I.


Yes, I may feel cheated by this movie, which seems to have sold out on every level, but I am definitely going to see it again. And own it. And put the disk right between The Transformers: The Movie: The Special Edition and The Incredibles. With a big smile on my face.

But, no, I am not going to research it. I have read Ted Hughes’ The Iron Giant and Christopher Priest’s The Prestige, but a cursory investigation of the comic does little to recommend the property to me. Disney is cashing in on its investment, when it bought Marvel, and we receive the benefits.

Big Hero 6 Baymax

Also, Disney does.

But the important thing is that in this coming-of-age story about a boy and his dog (for “dog,” read “giant robotic health care companion), there is a real coping-with-loss and a silent villain in a kabuki mask.

And we’ve never seen that before.

Big Hero 6 Yokai

I realize that my writing is a bit uneven in this post, but I don’t mind at this point.

Here is another still from the movie. Why don’t you go see it already?



I recommend Rob Minkoff’s Mr. Peabody and Sherman with a broad smile. The story was character-based, the plot moved a nice trot, the animation was beautiful, and the voice acting was first-rate. High marks, all around.

I found some of the plot devices even stunning.  They disclosed to me, by their very superfluity, the love of the writers for story-making. The devices themselves were interesting, and writers’ love always engenders a kindred love in the audience, I find.

Now, a stirring discussion could begin with the movie’s meaning for pop culture:

  1. because it is another remake of an old all-ages property but one that never had as big a fanbase as some other properties–and I do not know the original, so I cannot make more than partial comparisons to other remakes.
  2. because it sends another message along the lines of the thesis that adults know nothing very useful and only renegade minors can bring about a better society–but whereas this by-now old thesis is supposed to be subversive, Mr. Peabody and Sherman might subvert it!

Jay Ward, Craig Wright, Robert Ben Garant, and Thomas Lennon–the writers–might even say–who knows?–they love the audience.  Well, if that is the case, then here is my reply: I have a deep regard for you as well.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman: “My Deep Regard”

Odds and Ends: Beginnings Even for Spirit, Rocketeer, and Batman Beyond

Two announcements have excited me for…last Summer!  I have been sitting on some posts for months, and they are only now hatching.

Batman Beyond 2.0 Kyle Higgins Thony Silas 1 Cover

According to the first announcement, Kyle Higgins will be taking over writing duties on DC’s ongoing monthly title, Batman Beyond.  The character has been written by Adam Beechen since 2010.

Higgins is a young writer broke into the comics industry a few years ago.  He has already written two of the oldest superheroes, Captain America and Batman.  Before that, he directed an interesting short film, The League, set in 1960’s Chicago and around the world’s first superhero labor union.

The comic, based on Bruce Timm’s animated series of the same name (1999-2001), began and ended several times, whether as miniseries or ongoing series.

After the success of Timm and crew’s two animated Batman series (1992-95 and 1997-99), which rode on the success of the Tim Burton films (1989 and 1992), Timm was tasked with producing a series for a new audience and therefore with a younger cast.

The result is a futuristic vision of Gotham, not in a perpetual 1930’s-40’s era from which the inhabitants never escape, nor in a later era of techno-architectural progress but the same ethico-political status.  The city has changed.  Architecturally, it is a city of dark surfaces and neon lights, like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns but further in the timeline, as may be expected.  Politically, however, economics have ineluctably raised the city.  Crime–to turn a phrase–has become rust on metal and flickering fluorescence instead of dirt on brick and yellowed incandescence.

In the first episode, we see Batman in a modified suit, black and red, without a scalloped cape on his back to simulate flight but with a pair of jets built into the bottom of his boots to achieve it.  After he feels himself a failure in his latest mission, he calls it his last, and he doffs the cowl and quits his crusade, until he finds Terry McGinnis and appoints him as his protégé.

The animated series ingeniously keeps the tone specific to the Dark Knight, by retaining the presence of Bruce Wayne himself, while it also develops the fugue to its fullest measure, as the heroes, the villains, and the city around them change in the time allowed.

According to the second announcement, Mark Waid will be penning a crossover between Will Eisner’s city-dwelling, hat-and-tie hero, The Spirit, and Dave Stevens’ high-flying, jetpack-and-leather-jacket adventurer, The Rocketeer.  What more needs to be said?

Rocketeer Spirit Mark Waid Paul Smith 1 Cover

Daredevil Catches Captain America’s Shield

Since viewing the last image of the trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I have been reminded of a certain scene in Mark Waid’s current run on the Daredevil monthly series.  What is it like to handle the star-spangled discus?  Waid shows us the answer.

Waid started his run by taking the character, Matt Murdock, up out of the depressive slog and reinstalling him into the mode of do-derring adventurer.  I say a “mode” because the Waid enacts the shift within the continuity of the character, and this is to Waid’s great credit.  He succeeds in making the regression a progression.

The first issues revitalize the reader’s sense of the sightless man’s superhuman powers, namely, the augmentation in the other four senses, such as hearing and touch, with the result of one or two other benefits, namely, the augmentation of his natural reflexes and the emergence of a certain “radar” sense.

In Issue 1, for example, Matt remarks to Foggy Nelson, his best friend and law partner, about the slightly unique smell of each strawberry on a street vendor’s fruit stand.  He also leads Foggy down to the subway, following the strains of a street performing violinist.  The following scene plays out:


And Matt gains competency on the musical instrument in the time that it takes a subway train to pass:


The scene is a vignette of sorts.  It stands on its own, to some extent, but it accomplishes dual functions.  First, it instructs the reader about Daredevil’s sensory style of life–by showing and not telling, I might add, in a fairly clever way.  Second, it furthers the story by keeping Matt ahead of Foggy.  Again, it does this by showing and not telling.  Foggy does not believe that Matt can relieve himself so easily of so much sorrow as he has had to endure.  Matt’s “keeping ahead” in their walk represents his “going forward” in life and his “withdrawing from” his friend and may be both a cause and an effect of it.  Matt “keeps ahead” of Foggy in a bodily way, of course, but also by way of his thoughts, feelings, and actions.

The scene accomplishes another function in Issue 2.  Captain America comes to see if Daredevil is himself again or whether he must be brought under arrest.


As narrowly as Daredevil dodges the super soldier’s projectile, so narrowly does Captain America dodge the devil’s of Hell’s Kitchen.  With some reluctance, however, I admit that I noticed the mirrored “pak’s” only on my second read-through.

The heroes’ skirmish is not terribly prolonged, but it is terribly effective.  I leave the reader to discover the battle in full in the intervening pages while I skip to the last of them.  Captain America is convinced for the time being that Daredevil is not subject to the same insanity under whose sway he set himself up as king of Hell’s Kitchen by the enforcement of an evil ninja clan–as one occasionally does in superhero comics.

ImageCaptain America’s shield is a one-of-a-kind weapon.  Not a sword or a spear or any conventional means of attack, but rather a means of defense, the shield is constructed from Vibranium, the fictional alloy with the very singular property of annulling all kinetic energy that lands upon it.  (See Agent Carter’s application of bullets to the shield in The First Avenger or Thor’s application of Mjolnir in Whedon’s The Avengers.)  It also seems to multiply the force coming behind it (see the intervening pages of DD and Cap’s fight).  How the thing remains painted, I cannot say, but attempts at reproducing the alloy have produced Adamantium, the alloy that coats Wolverine’s skeleton.

We could ponder the ties of that God-fearing man’s shield to St. Paul’s “shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fire-tipped arrows of your wicked enemy” (Ephesians 6:16); but the relevant point here is that it is also designed to be thrown.  Hence, the round shape is highly advantageous, and here it is that we discover that Matt has kept up with his latest hobby from Issue 1.

Matt has done more than play a few notes on some man’s fiddle on a subway platform.  He has gotten access to specimens that have been built by the world’s finest luthiers.  The works of their hands apparently exhibit a kind of tangible music sister to the sonic music that they produce.


Argonauts: Valorous Ruffians

Note: In order to understand why I assign the Argonauts the epithet that I do, the reader may follow the links below.  Let me remark preliminarily that it is very fitting for the linked article to have been penned by someone with such a nom de plume.

Greek mythical heroes are compared to superheroes in an interesting three-part article by someone with the screen name, plato [sic]:

Imagine a group of superheroes, each with their own special power, traveling around on wild, improbable adventures. There is the guy who can fly, another with super strength and yet another fellow with a secret, unbeatable weapon. And of course there is also the captain of the team, usually an “all around good guy” who’s almost an everyman… if it wasn’t for his quick-witted thinking and problem solving.

This is the Argonauts, a fantastic ancient Greek gang, complete with a cool name and trusty boat to speed them on their way…

and then contrasted:

Some superhero stories feature perfect wonder men or women, conquering the world and beating the bad guys. Other legends include characters with tragic flaws, which lead to their ultimate demise. While another category portrays bigger than life stars with pathetically human traits. Jason and the Argonauts fulfill this last description…

Mythical heroes do resemble superheroes.  The comparison bears many points of similarity, in fact, and I submit that any educated person could enumerate them without too much effort, if he or she had to review them both, say, for a timed essay on a standardized test.  For this reason, I will omit a list for the time being.  The contrasts might require some measure of additional effort, since the essayist must make a more incisive use of his or her intellect, and I can be prevailed upon to provide such a list, too, on some later date.

For now, my purposes limit me to observing three facts: first, that a blogger on Classical Wisdom Weekly has made the comparison (the site’s by-line is “Ancient Wisdom for Modern Minds”); second, that the blogger uses the name plato (the name is uncapitalized); and third, that plato, in another part of the same article and in a parallel introduction, strikes a contrast between Jason and the Argonauts and superheroes.

What study may be made of these facts remains unconcluded.

Hushed Roar: Madeline Miller’s “The Song of Achilles”

In Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, the tale of Achilles is heard from the mouth of his beloved companion, Patroclus.  The marvel of the book for this reader is how gracefully it unites its varied strains into a single voice.  That voice is then wonderfully played by Frazer Douglas in the audiobook.

Just as Achilles is son of a man but also son of a goddess…

Just as Achilles is prophesied to have a short life but immortal glory or a dimmer brilliance and a greater longevity…

Just as Achilles is known for his wrath but he tends a love for kind-hearted Patroclus–

Medline Miller The Song of Achilles

So the book is a contemporary fantasy about ancient myths…

So it testifies to scholarly research and boasts the originality of a literary talent…

So it uses Patroclus’ hushed self-consciousness to magnify the roaring effusion of Achilles’ glory.

There are so many things to be said for the book that I can do no better than to offer my recommendation.  Nonetheless, perhaps I can indicate some of those things by comparisons to other works of fiction.

Continue reading

Daredevil’s Grin: An Unsent Letter to J. David Weter

Daredevil 4 Waid Martin Purple Goons Detail|
J. David Weter hosts a sensational podcast about Marvel’s Daredevil called Dave’s Daredevil Podcast.  I sent him a letter on December 13, 2013 that can be read here: Iconic Daredevil.  The letter concerns why Matt Murdock takes on the image of a devil.  After listening to a few more episodes of the podcast, I wrote this follow-up email:
Daredevil 4 Waid Martin Purple Goons
A sneaky lawyer’s trick. That is clever! I never thought of Daredevil as a legal loophole. I like that! It certainly answers the question (1) how Matt thinks of the alter ego that he has adopted as an alter ego.
Daredevil 2 Waid Rivera Splash 2 of 2
You answered a couple other questions that I had, too, in episode ten or earlier.
One question is easy, of course. (2) Why does Matt choose Daredevil as the name of his alter ego? He chooses it because of “what the kids used to call him,” as Elijah Price says in Unbreakable. In The Man Without Fear, Frank Miller shows that the nickname cut him deep, as if he did not have (a) the courage to go to “the edge” (as Elektra speaks of it in TMWF) or the necessary (b) boldness or (c) “devil-may-care” attitude as regards consequences.
Another question I was happy that you touch on is (3) why Matt wears a devil costume. As far as I could tell, you conjectured that his creators played on the “devil” part of “daredevil” without seeing any deeper connection between the two for their creation. That seems true to me, too. I don’t know any better, to be sure. I haven’t researched the matter, but, to my mind, that answer squares with how much time (or thought?) Stan and Bill could (or wanted?) to put into creating him.
Still, the wordplay between “devil” and “daredevil” only answers part of the question. It answers (3a) why Stan and Bill gave Hornhead his devilish appearance (at least to some extent), but it does not answer (3b) what the devilish appearance means to Matt.
Daredevil 4 Waid Martin Mobbed with Bludgeons