Project: Iron Man – Iron Man #28 The Controller Lives!

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IM 28 Cover

This is a one-and-done issue and when I read issues like this I always ask myself if going through each issue is really the best plan for this project. The goal was to go through my collection and read them through and reconnect with the sentimental memories that are attached to them. Issues like #1 and #173 are easy because they are not only milestones in my collecting history, but are fond memories that I have with my Mom and Dad, but issues like this don’t rouse the same emotional response. I didn’t want this to just become me retelling Iron Man stories. That idea’s been done, and done very well, by Tom Katers and I don’t want to do a poor copy of that.* I considered taking a new tact with this project, of reading through each comic and then only writing about the ones that struck a chord, but that didn’t feel like it was in the spirit of what I set out to do. It felt like cheating. Then it occurred to me that this issue follows television show formula and that, even though I may not have strong memories of it, there’s still something to explore. Something to comment on beyond just rehashing the story in the pages. If this issue of Iron Man were on TV it would make for a good CW show.

IM 28 pg1

Here on our first page we have a girl running in the dark. There’s thunder and lightning, suddenly a foreboding shadow and… the monster is revealed! It is The Controller and he has found her! This opening scene wouldn’t out of place in an episode of Supernatural or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It even ends the page with the credits.

The more I read stories with The Controller the more it is clear to me that he is a good foil for Iron Man , especially at this point in Iron Man’s evolution.

  • Just like Tony, Basil Sandhurst is infirm without his armor.
  • In the opposite of Tony who uses his own brain power to make powerful armor, The Controller uses other people’s literal brain power to make his armor powerful.
  • He’s a very physically powerful villain, they make a big deal about that this issue, so he’s not someone that Tony can just overpower. Tony has to out think him.

As he makes more appearances he changes to fit with the times and by the time we get to Matt Fraction’s run in 2005 The Controller has an army of drone zombies… but we’re not quite there yet.

The Controller is trying to stop our young lady, who we will call Meredith McCall, from warning Tony Stark about something and pulls out and tosses a tree stump just to get to her and make her one if his mind slaves.

IM 28 Tossing tree stump

Where comic books have one-and-done issues that return to the status quo at the end of twenty-two pages and TV shows have their stand-alone episodes that do the same thing. This is one of those. Have we met Meredith McCall before? No, she is a special guest start if we are using TV vocabulary. Will anything be changed when we get to the end of this issue? No, but I’m getting ahead of myself. That tree stump does what all things thrown into the air must do – it comes down…

IM 28 Tree stump landing

…right in front of the car that is carrying Tony Stark and Jasper Sitwell.

Can we take a moment to talk about how strong someone has to be to pull a tree stump out of the ground? Rain and wet earth notwithstanding,  tree stumps are notoriously difficult to get out of the ground. It’s easy for city-slickers like myself to forget that there’s a reason why stump pulling has a shocking large return of results on Google search. Trees don’t want to be moved and anchor themselves down pretty good. The fact that The Controller can rip one out of the ground so casually really speaks to the strength he has.

Back to our story…

Tony and Jasper are on the rocks ever since the run in with The Minotaur and Jasper’s discovery that the love of his life, Whitney Frost a.k.a. Madame Masque, is in love with Tony. Tony mentions that he is just visiting an old friend and doesn’t need his S.H.I.E.L.D. escort, but Jasper is more cautious saying that a mysterious call from a young lady from Tony’s past seems suspicious.  The tree stump pretty much confirms that Jasper is right as does the scream from the woods. Jasper runs into the woods to help while Tony dons his armor from the secret compartment in his car. Side Note: I wish real cars had all the secret compartments like they do in comics and movies. I don’t know what I’d do with them, but I want them!

Iron Man, using his boot jets, finds Meredith before Jasper can (and The Controller runs off not ready to confront his old foe) which makes an emasculated Jasper Sitwell feel all the more useless.

IM 28 Jasper feeling useless

Tony has guilt about it, but also has to maintain his cover of being both Stark and Iron Man, so Iron Man lets Jasper get Meredith back to the car while he “searches” for Tony. They drive to the sanitarium where Meredith works and we get the popular television trope – the flashback!

 

IM 28 Young Love for Tony

 

Forbidden love – the sweetest of all fruits. Even though Tony and Meredith are all hot for each other that one summer, after their fathers make an effort to separate them the relationship fades just like so many do. The reach the Pinewood Sanitarium and mention that Meredith was worried that Basil Sandhurst – The Controller – was planning his revenge on Stark. The director of the facility laughs it off claiming that Basil is an invalid, even showing Jasper and Tony a sleeping Basil Sandhurst.

IM 28 Basil is an invalid

Jasper, still feeling useless, decides that Tony probably is safe and leaves, Tony sticks around to see to Meredith. Unfortunately it was all a trick! The Controller reveals himself and that he has built a new Absorbatron! In TV we’d call this an act break or a reveal – something big to bring you back after the commercials.

IM 28 New Absorbatron

Now The Controller wants Tony’s help building a new device that will make him even more powerful…

Meanwhile in the woods, Jasper can’t shake his suspicions and investigates the area where they found Meredith. There he finds a slave disc and rushes back to Pinewood.

IM 28 Jasper finds a slave disc and wong chu homage

 

Under the careful watch of The Controller, Tony builds the helmet Sandhurst designed. It focuses the mental energy of those attached to slave discs into powerful rays of destructive force.

Jasper rushes in and distracts The Controller just long enough for Tony to get into his Iron Man armor and there is a battle:

IM 28 Battle

I really like this battle scene. Iron Man is not as physically powerful as The Controller, Iron Man even mentions that only Hulk or Thor could really slug it out with him, and just like in a good TV show we need to see the hero overcome what looks like a hopeless battle. And brains win out over brawn. Knowing that he couldn’t directly sabotage the helmet, Tony made it so that it could only handle so much power:

IM 28 The Controller burns himself out

With the bad guy defeated we get our wrap-up where the status quo gets put back to normal (rather quickly as well):

  • Villain is out-of-action and his new tech is destroyed.
  • All of his victims are free and safe.
  • Jasper and Tony are friendly again.
  • As for Meredith and Tony’s lost romance? The final nail is hammered into that coffin when it is revealed that she is married. Stark don’t do married chicks.

IM 28 Tony don't date married chicks

I don’t think we see Meredith McCall again and the next time we see The Controller he is so different that this story is irrelevant, but just like good genre TV it filled a month and was fun to read.

See you next time!

 

*Seriously though, his podcasts called Tom vs. Comics are fantastic! Especially if you’re a DC Silver Age fanboy. I’m not but I listened to all of Tom vs. The Flash and I attribute it to being the main reasons why I’m enjoying The Flash television show so much right now. Yes the show is good on it’s own, but Tom and his retelling of the classic stories makes it so much better. Check it out!

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Filed under avengers, comic books, iron man, Iron Man 28, Iron Man Issue, Project: Iron Man

Actor 101: From the Trenches

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I recently had a conversation in the comments of my post Actor 101: The Actor, The Art & Advertising where the question came up about actors in a show who were asked to make changes in their performance that they were, for personal reasons, uncomfortable with. While you can see the full conversation at the link above, I wanted to post my initial response as a post because 1) this may happen to a new actor and it’s important that you maintain your personal integrity and 2) when collaborating it is essential that everyone is on the same page.

I actually cover this a lot in my acting class because if we, as actors, are going to do good work then integrity must lie at the center of that. It’s the kernel that a good performance sprouts from. There are a few things that must be considered in this answer:

1) The show itself: Tone and final objective for the audience is the biggest factor to consider here. Are they supposed to enjoy themselves? Should they have a visceral reaction for or against? Should they be shocked? Assuming that you are doing a standard version of South Pacific it’s a pretty solid romantic musical. The audience should be happy when the relationships culminate. However, if this is an avant garde take then perhaps another goal is trying to be reached?

2) The director: They are in command of the overall vision of the show, which can include adjusting the tone of the show as a whole. While actors see individual “strokes,” the director is responsible for the completed “painting.” Based on your description it sounds like he is trying to put his own stamp on the show? Maybe making it grittier? My default reaction is to have trust in the vision, but it’s also his duty to make you, as performers, understand what that vision is and what part you play in that vision. Based solely on your description it sounds like this may not be very clear.

3) The actor: You have a responsibility to deliver the character that you have been hired to play that matches the tone of the show and the vision of the director. To that end it is entirely possible that there will be 11th hour changes that may need to be integrated into a performance, but these changes, whatever they are, need to be applied as they would work for the character. They need to be defensible if you are asked where they came from. There needs to be a motivation behind them. There’s a reason why the phrase, “what’s my motivation” exists – it’s a legitimate thing for an actor, it just sounds really pretentious. If the actors being asked to change behaviors that don’t match their personal beliefs then the performance may come off either contrived or poorly done – neither is good for the show. But the people are not their characters so if the character displays different behaviors then the actor that is something the actor should be prepared for. I don’t like the phrase, ” to be a good actor you must be willing and able to substitute your moral upbringing…that’s acting 101″ I disagree with that, but characters do things that actors as people would never do and sometimes the most powerful performances are the ones that challenge the actor to really think and maybe even question why they feel the way they do about something.

I’m not sure how vulgar they are asked to be, but in my opinion the best solution is a director/actor meeting where each side comes open minded and the reasoning for this change is discussed. That way a compromise can be made that follows character and place in show versus “I say do this!” “But I don’t want to do this!”

I hope that helps and that you guys have a great show!

What are your thoughts on this? Do you have a story about being asked to do something you were uncomfortable with? Let me know in the comments.

See you next time!

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New York Part 2: Friendly Inspiration

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The last time I was in the city was over ten years go. The city is quite a bit different than it was then. I’m quite different than I was then. Before I really enjoyed being in the city, but I didn’t feel like I was a part of it. It was a location and I really couldn’t see myself as being included in it. I was an outsider looking in on the swirling mass of activity that was the city. I felt far more included this trip and that was primarily due to the fact that we had so many friends there to help bring us in.

When Rene and I got to New York we were surprised and delighted to find that we knew a lot more people in the Five Burroughs than we realized. Nearly all of them are artists in one way shape or form and doing things that we found either inspiring or motivating. I’ve actually been struggling with this post because there’s a part of me that wants to share all the cool stuff we did and all the cool people we did it with – just toss it out into the public and share, but the other half is having a really tough time being like, “these are the people we saw and here’s what we did with them.” It feels a little too personal for a public forum.

Pictures, however, I’m very comfortable sharing. So I’ve created this slideshow of cool stuff we did with cool people who I hope we see again very soon.

See you next time.

 

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An Easter Tradition

Happy Easter!

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April 5, 2015 · 8:00 am

New York Agrees With Us



It’s cliche to say that New York is an exciting, vibrant town. It is truly a working model in “hustle and bustle.” The sidewalks are full of people going somewhere and the streets, although packed like the 405 at rush hour, still seem to move at various steady paces depending on the time of day. As much as New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude, we find that they are actually some of the friendliest people you could meet who are happy to help when they can, but will also tell you to shove it if you’re being an ass. Rene and I have only been here a few weeks but we are already finding that New York works pretty well for us. 

I started this post when I was still in the city. I was in the apartment that were were sitting and curled up on the couch. I never did finish a post while I was there, mostly because there was so much to do and so many people that we wanted to see. And the experience itself was overwhelming. I’ve been to New York before. The last time was a while a ago, 2004, but one thing that’s great about New York is that it doesn’t seem to really ever “change” in its fundamentals. There are probably a few New Yorkers that would argue me on that, and I would concede on points that are specific to the new economy of the city and the gentrification of certain areas, but the fundamental energy, can-do spirit and cultural ferocity that songs are written about and that draws people from all over the world to visit and settle there has never really changed. It’s a viceral thing, you can actually feel it as you walk around. For a week straight neither Rene or I got the kind of sleep we normally need and functioned as if we were powered by a celestial Dynamo. There’s a reason they call it the city that never sleeps. This was illustrated all the more for me when I got home and found that I was bone draggingly tired. You could blame the lack of “vacation adrenaline” for the change, but I’ve travelled a lot and have not ever felt this kind of dip except when visiting New York. It took me a week to really recover and my recovery required a great amount of sleep. 

But as great as the city is, this trip was as wonderful as it was due to the people that we got to see while we were there. From Kim and Roy who were the reason we were there in the first place to Jenna and Joel who are a powerful reminder of what I want to be doing to all the folks that we met for the first time, they helped to make New York a wonderful temporary home. 

There is so much that I want to talk about, some touristy stuff and some not so touristy stuff, but those are best left for different posts. Do you like slide shows?

See you next time!

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The Business: Adi Shankar Breaks Down Indie Film Finance

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I talk a lot about the changing entertainment industry in this blog, mostly from the perspective of an actor, but the business of movie making itself is in constant flux. I rarely talk about the projects that we are working on until they feel like they are in a position where they look like they are definitely going to happen.

“But Curtis, ” I hear you saying, “you’ve talked about things that have totally gone belly up before. What about those?”

Well, dear readers, those projects that I’ve talked about that ended up not working were all victims of a dangerous calculus known as Independent Film Finance. Getting a film made is a metaphorical tightrope walk over a mile deep chasm filled with razor blades and sulphuric acid. At any moment a stiff breeze could come by and destroy you and everything you’ve worked on – but the promise of a completed project is enough to make you try and if you get to the other side…? Oh there is no sweeter feeling of satisfaction!

However the realities of film finance are not well known among the audience. If you knew what filmmakers know you’d be amazed that any movie ever got made ever and how terrible movies are getting made at all. In the interest of education I’d like to share with you a video made by indie filmmaker Adi Shankar, he’s the guy responsible for the gritty Power Rangers remake that hit all the blogs in late February/early March. He is also the guy behind DREDD which was a great adaptation of the popular comic hero judge Dredd. He breaks down, in a wonderfully efficient way, how independent films get made currently. It is beautifully succinct. Oh, and there’s adult language so be aware.

How do you feel about all this? What movies would you like to see happen? What movie would you erase from existence if you could?

See you next time!

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March 9, 2015 · 8:00 am

Video Friday – The History of Piracy

 

piracy

Piracy.

It is the bane of the modern entertainment industry.

It has completely changed the paradigm of the music industry and altered the business of television and film distribution in ways that have yet to be realized.

For many consumers, media piracy is thought of as a new thing. Something that the industry has to cope with in a world full of modern marvels that allow for quick duplication and distribution. But that isn’t actually true. Piracy is something that is as old as the entertainment industry and CineFix has done a great job explaining it in their latest Film School’D video.

Another lesson from this video? Edison really was a prick. An industrious prick, but a prick.

How do you feel about piracy? what do you think the industry can do to combat it? Let me know in the comments.

See you next time.

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March 6, 2015 · 8:00 am

NEW! AVENGERS! TRAILER!

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HOLY CRAP THIS LOOKS GOOD!!!!!

I’m so excited for this movie!

See you next time.

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March 4, 2015 · 10:49 am

Is TBS Speeding Up Seinfeld?

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TBS logo

I was cruising around Reddit the other day, just burning some screen time, when I stumbled on this little tidbit:

TBS Speeds up Seinfeld Reddit

 

According to this post TBS airs reruns of Seinfeld faster than the shows were originally broadcast to gain extra ad-time to sell. This notion isn’t new, radio stations have been speeding up songs for years to help cut run times, but I haven’t ever heard of it for television. If it’s true (and in the link it does say that it was reported by CBS news on 2/20/2015) then I’m not surprised. The changing ecosystem for television has seen a drop in ad revenue as audiences have found new ways to consume the shows that they like. Since they can’t charge the same for the current air time they have it makes sense to try and create more of that air time.

The way networks used to do this is by cutting actual run time – the shows would actually have additional cuts made to remove a minute or so that could then be sold for commercials. This used to bother me a lot, especially when I was a kid. I’d specifically remember something in an episode and then in syndication it wouldn’t be there. When I finally did find out that the shows were getting trimmed it was relieving, but also still sucked because the shows was shorter.

An example of this is an episode of Diff’rent Strokes called “A Haunting We Will Go.” It was the Ghostbusters episode where Arnold and Sam think the house down the street is haunted. It looked like this:

At the end of the episode they find out that the ghost is fake and that the man who supposedly died in the house was an inventor who faked his death. More HERE including the whole episode. In the episode, when the ghostly things would begin, the doors to the parlor would slam shut. Once everything has been resolved at the end they all go for ice cream and walk out with the parlor doors doing one final “slam!” When I was a kid I was convinced that this meant that the house really was haunted and that the door was open for more spooky business. Problem was, when I watched the reruns that last slam was always cut out. I started to think that it was cut because it was too scary and then that I was imagining it completely. Many years later I got confirmation that I had remembered it correctly when I finally saw the complete episode again.

If TBS is only speeding up the episodes then it might not be that bad. You’ll see in the video below it’s hardly noticeable. But if they’re speeding up and trimming…? Well let’s hope there’s still enough episode to watch.

What do you think about this? Fair game in a declining market? Total greed from corporate overlords? Let me know in the comments.

See you next time.

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March 2, 2015 · 8:00 am

Video Friday: A Tribute to Leonard Nimoy

LeonardNimoy-Memorium

This morning Leonard Nimoy passed away. Although I did not know him personally, he has always been a favorite of mine. Like so many other people, I was a Spock fan, I watched his show about movies on Nickelodeon when I was a kid, I learned about Bigfoot from his show In Search of…, and one of my favorite movies is Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. In interviews he was genuine and thoughtful and always seemed to have something interesting to say. To me, he appeared to be the gentleman actor who was always willing to give something a try – even a song about Bilbo Baggins. The world is a bit darker today because of his loss.

Instead of a fun video today I’d like to share the funeral scene from Star Trek 2 where Captain Kirk honors a fallen Spock. Although Mr. Nimoy was not the character that he played, this scene is the first that I remember when the death of a character had actual impact on me. It’s a moving send off.

Live long and prosper.

See you next time.

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February 27, 2015 · 11:40 am