The James Clayton Column: make me a Marvel
Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance kicks off the year’s comic book movies, leading James to wonder, which Marvel character should he transform into first…?
Most days I get up, look in the mirror and say “Urgh. I’ve seen this face before. I’m bored of seeing this face. I don’t want to see this face again.”
The mirror never recreates the “Man or Muppet” musical number from The Muppets, so I don’t get to face a singing doppelgänger puppet in the Jim Henson mould. For some musical action I suppose I could always channel Tommy - The Who’s rock opera made cinematic by Ken Russell - and smash the mirror (“Go to the mirror, boy!”), but then I’d inevitably end up with seven years’ bad luck.
Instead, bored of the reflection, I depart and search for excitement elsewhere. I’ll go and find something pretty or stimulating to look at, like cows in a field, a plastic bag blowing across the high street on a gentle breeze or a film packed full of beautiful imagery (say, Aliens or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre). There’s a world of wonders out there so much more appealing than my own banal existence and cosmetic features. It must be incredibly dull being a narcissist.
Still, this daily encounter is tedious, and it’s not a good start to the morning. The overall effect is like Chinese water torture on your self-esteem and sense of identity. I’m always threatening myself with an image overhaul and it’s high time I actually delivered, with less thunder rumbling at my reflection and more lightning instead. I want my encounters with mirrored surfaces to be characterised by electrifying pyrotechnics and touches of pizzazz that instil a sense of self-pride and self-satisfaction within me.
In the wearying identity wars, I take comfort from comic books - another excellent, entertaining source of distraction from mundane life and all its ailing aspects. By immersing yourself in graphic novels (to use their ‘respectable’ name) you experience colour, compelling stories and absorbing protagonists who you can empathise with or even idealise and aspire to be like.
Many of these characters - specifically, those that dominate the superhero genre - deal with their dissatisfaction with their identity by adopting exhilarating aliases, dressing up in costume and spending their free time fighting crime, cosmic evil or supernatural malevolence. For some, that ‘superhero’ identity is permanent.
They do spectacular deeds, have incredible powers and act as icons to the underwhelmed and underpowered. We want to be them or, at least, be like them, these daring almost-invincible superhuman heroes blazing a trail across thrilling sequential narratives.
Spin-off movies add to the sense of awe by bringing motion to the panels and rendering the heroes even more lifelike to the audience’s eye. The cumulative effect of increased boredom with my own ‘image’ and the onslaught of Marvel comic-book adaptations is that I’ve got increased impetus to get radical and spawn a new persona. The arrival of Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance in cinemas and the buzz around trailers for The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man are a further nudge towards action.
Of course, I don’t want to come up with my own unique ‘superhero’ alias because, as Kick-Ass illustrates, it looks pathetic and people don’t respect originality in the modern world. What I need to do is steal someone else’s identity - one that’s already established and regarded as cool - then I’ll get to enjoy the thrill of being an eternal cosplayer with a remarkable appearance, calcified in the character of a cult figure loved by legions of geeks.
The only risk is that I’ll get sued for fraud, identity theft or copyright infringement, but legal battles with Marvel are trendy right now. It’s also worth noting that I’m going to lift a look from the films and not from the original comics, because there’s a danger I’ll end up rendered by a gun-for-hire fill-in artist who can’t draw feet.
Up, up and away with the process of rebooting myself as a Marvel icon, then. Here’s my hit list of possible images I could pull off...
I like the leather rebel daredevil biker look and I can’t think of anything more wickedly awesome than having a flaming skull for a head. If the eye-catching Easy Rider-as-incendiary-skeleton style also confers mad motorcycle skills, an additional eccentric Nicolas Cage edge and the ability to perform the Penance Stare on evildoers, then even better.
The sale of my soul to Mephistopheles is a very steep price but will I care when I’m inspiring Hell dread wherever my smouldering boots/wheels tread? Plus, I’d always look like a smoking hot bad sonofabitch and be able to pee flames. If Spirit Of Vengeance is better than the first movie, this may be a move worth making.
Another skullface appearance, but this one is a little less hot to handle and is guaranteed to command even more respect and fear from associates, enemies and the HYDRA legions who hail the bald crimson cranium as supreme figurehead. All I’d need to do is completely dismantle my values and opinions so I can cope with an all-consuming hatred of Captain America and personal links to Nazis. This isn’t going to be a feasible, unless the Cosmic Cube can assist me and enable a total personality change towards ‘irredeemable villainous psychopath’.
I need Norsepower, and by cultivating a blonde beard, long aurous locks and developing brawn befitting a Viking warrior I could become a golden god among mere mundane mortals. Earthlings would dig the sci-fi stylings of my Asgardian armour, respect the power of Mjölnir and kneel before my thundering celestial majesty. Accessorising by carrying a mighty magic hammer is a good idea if the toughs in your neighbourhood take exception to your exotic, mythology-based new image.
The Incredible Hulk
You won’t like me I’m angry, or when I’ve been transformed into a raging, rampaging green monstrosity thanks to gamma radiation. I’d be an unstoppable force of supernature and there’s also the chance that I’d look like either Eric Bana, Ed Norton or Mark Ruffalo in my calm moments, and none of those are a particularly bad thing. Plus, I’d be able to shout “HULK SMASH!” in public without looking like an idiot.
The ideal, most attractive solution to an identity crisis and crippling aesthetic indecision - become the shapeshifting mimic of the X-Men world. If I’m not having a “mutant and proud” moment sticking with the blue-bodied regular look I could, for instance, transform myself into Ghost Rider without the Faustian complications of deals with the Devil. A different Marvel character persona for every day of the year! Excelsior!